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Dubai drowning: Death-before-dishonor story may be inaccurate, reports Guardian

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(Read caption) People enjoy a sunset swim at a public beach in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

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The story of a South Asian father whose daughter drowned at a Dubai beach after he allegedly stopped lifeguards from saving her has gone viral online. But doubts about the story’s authenticity have surfaced.

The Guardian reports the claims made by the article, namely that the father preferred his 20-year-old daughter die rather than be touched by a “strange man” may be inaccurate.

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A curious reader followed up and told The Guardian that lifeguards had been asked to recount the strangest things that had happened to them. "They mentioned this case of the Asian man who prevented his daughter’s rescue, but, and here’s the catch – it was from 1996."

The story was originally reported on Sunday by local outlet Emirates 24/7, then was republished by international news outlets and distributed via Agence France-Press.  

It quoted a Lt. Col. Ahmed Burqibah, identified as the deputy director of Dubai’s Police Search and Rescue Department – neither a name nor a title found on the official police website – as saying the following:

The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help.…Two rescue men were at the beach, and they rushed to help the girl....The father was a tall and strong man. He started pulling and preventing the rescue men and got violent with them. He told them that he prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man. She died unfortunately, at a time when she had a chance to live, especially that the rescue men were so close to her to pull her out of the water.

According to the news report, "Lt. Col. Burqibah" also said authorities arrested the girl’s father.

Emirates 24/7 did not mention a specific time frame or date for the incident.

While the authenticity of the account remains unclear, experts agree that Dubai is a relatively conservative society. While the Dubai police force has both male and female officers, the female uniform can include a headscarf.

Malls ask shoppers to cover their shoulders and knees – via notices posted at the entrances, reports the BBC, as there is no law requiring such restrictions.

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Some are pushing for more public modesty, including 23-year-old Asma, who co-founded the Twitter campaign #UAEDressCode. She told the BBC, "The way some people dress here is offensive to our beliefs. Malls are public places and there are families and children."

The BBC reports: "In the UAE, Emiratis make up less than 20% of the population's estimated 8 million people. So the government here has a difficult balance to strike, ensuring the local population is looked after while not putting off tourism and trade with too many rules and regulations either.”