Saeed Mohammed, an agent at Arabian Nights Tours in Dubai, said he frequently faces difficulties obtaining UAE entry visas for Iranians, Turkish citizens and those from Yemen’s rebel-held capital due to simmering political tensions. The UAE’s recent normalization deal with Israel, which now allows Israelis to visit the emirate’s skyscraper-studded cities visa-free, has cast a spotlight on a changing Middle East. Gulf leaders have come to see Israel, a former enemy, as a key ally against the shared threats of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Despite long-standing visa troubles, Mohammed said he’s never seen the 100% visa rejection rate of the past week, with some dozen visitor visas denied each day from Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and other countries.
“We can only assume that there has been some change in the law, but in reality, no one knows,” he said.
Mohammad Hosseini, Iran’s Chargé d’Affaires in the UAE, wrote on Twitter Thursday that he’s following up with the Emirati Foreign Ministry after hearing the visa ban applies to 13 countries “temporarily and until further notice.” A travel agent in Tehran said Iranians hadn’t received visas to enter the UAE since early August.
One travel agent in Istanbul said she wasn’t at all surprised by the ban, especially given the UAE’s growing trend of rejecting Turkish visas over the past few months — the result of a political rivalry, not the coronavirus, she added.