Dubai: The death of 16-year-old Dubai expat Harry Harling after an alcohol-induced party late last month has brought the issue of teenage drinking under the spotlight.
As more and more teenagers have access to alcohol here, the question that begs to be asked is: How do they get it?
Ben, a 15-year-old British student, is like most boys his age. On weekdays, he has a 9pm curfew. On weekends, he's allowed to stay out till 2am, provided his parents know where he is at all times, and that he doesn't hide the events of the night from them.Fakes Bwog » First First Friday Bwog Friday » TU8Tq76
"My parents remember what it was like when they were my age," he says. "They promised never to block me. My dad often gives me a couple of cans of beer to take to a friend's house on weekends. As long as I stick to wine and beer, they don't mind. Harder spirits are still out of bounds for another year." While Ben's access to alcohol comes from home, some teens have to hide from their parents.
Katherine, a 14-year-old, says she steals small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis from her parents. "When that's not possible, I help myself to a bottle of wine. My parents are constantly entertaining people and would never realise a bottle missing," she says.
Ahmad, a 17-year-old Syrian, has a fake ID which he has been using for the last one year. "My parents would freak out if they thought I was going to a night club. According to them, it's a place for vices and sins. I don't think they've ever been inside one and can't understand that we're just a group of people who like to dance and listen to music."
Although Ahmad's parents have no way of knowing what their son is up to, other parents XPRESS interviewed had mixed reactions.
An Indian mother says that if she ever found out about her teenager drinking on the sly, or going into nightclubs, she would not be pleased.
"If I found out my 14-year-old had access to illegal alcohol or a fake ID, I would want to know how he had access to it in the first place. Considering the fact that we live in a city where the law says parents are responsible for their children till the age of 21, I would definitely caution him against illegal alcohol consumption through fake IDs. I am not opposed to letting my child enjoy his independence — but I think educating a child on social issues is important for his overall development."
However, not all parents of teens are on the same page. Balkiss, an Arab-American mother of a 16-year-old girl, says she was the one who created a fake ID for her daughter, so that she could occasionally go to a nightclub, and that she was allowed to watch 18+ movies. "If I don't trust her today, she'll learn to lie to me. I have to teach myself to allow her to live her life the way a normal teenager would. To restrict her would be foolish. My worst fear would be to get a call in the middle of the night telling me something horrible has happened to my daughter and I as a mother, had done nothing to get to know her life and her friends better, so that I could have been more involved in her real whereabouts, not the lies she would make to cover up her tracks."
Crime Chicago Theft Defense Identity L Freidberg David Lawyer A French father agrees. "In my country, teens start drinking at an early age. It's a rite of passage that every child goes through. My son is only nine now, but when he's 12 or 13, he'll sit down and have his first drink with his mother and me. And I'll allow him parties at home, and I'll secretly supervise his on-goings, but would I never say no to a drunken 16th birthday bash? Would I deny him the experience of a bar? No. He's going to grow up whether I like it or not. And by the time he's 16 or 17, he'll have left home to start an adventure of his own. All I can do is to make sure that he's responsible from an early age. The last thing I want is for my son to drink himself to an ambulance on his first day at university away from home. I'd rather he came to me for a drink than create a fake ID to get into a bar."
Identity Chicago David Lawyer L Theft Crime Freidberg Defense The art of faking it
Although once easily available in Dubai, fake IDs are now much harder to come by.
A beautician in Karama says that over the last three decades she's seen a lot of changes. "At first no one needed a fake ID since age checks weren't really carried out back then. On the few occasions when they were checked, we would just produce cards that we'd printed at home and had laminated. But then the law changed and the legal age of drinking went up from 18 to 21. Suddenly there were more expats in Dubai. And with the influx of residents came an influx of laws. Homemade IDs didn't work any longer. As with every rule, there was also a way to break it. All over Karama people were selling fake IDs for under Dh200. In the last few years though... police have cracked down on these sellers and today there's not a fake ID in sight."
An XPRESS online search revealed the ease with which children can have fake IDs created. Some websites offer a host of international IDs, including international driving licences and student cards.
A website's homepage reads: "Our cards are made to exacting specifications including hologram and OVD laminations." For under $100 (Dh367) teens can create any sort of ID they want, with specific details including their height, weight, eye colour and alleged date of birth. Delivery to the UAE by courier takes anywhere between two days and two weeks.
Certain nightclubs encourage teenage guests. The manager of a popular nightclub in Bur Dubai says he'd rather have well-behaved teenagers in his bar who appreciate the music, than those who ruin their reputation.