Tierra Young Allen, a 29-year-old Texan woman known by her social media moniker ‘Sassy Trucker,’ has found herself entangled in legal troubles in Dubai due to the emirate’s stringent speech laws. Her case highlights the stark contrast between the speech regulations in the UAE and those in Western countries.
Allen’s journey to Dubai in April was well-documented on her social media accounts, which have tens of thousands of followers. Her posts featured videos of her test-driving a Mercedes semi-truck, enjoying the beach, exploring tourist attractions, and experiencing the vibrant nightlife of Dubai.
However, towards the end of her trip, an incident occurred on April 28 involving a rental car driven by a friend who accompanied her. According to Radha Stirling, who leads the advocacy group Detained in Dubai and has long been critical of the UAE’s legal system, the incident occurred when Allen attempted to retrieve personal items left inside the rental car from the agency, resulting in a confrontation.
Details of the altercation at the unnamed car rental agency remain unclear. Stirling indicated that Allen might face potential charges for “shouting” at an employee of the rental car agency but did not provide specifics about the content of her remarks. Stirling accused the car rental agency employee of being confrontational and following Allen out of the shop during the incident, which left Allen feeling “scared” and intimidated.
Allen did not respond to requests for comment, a silence Stirling attributed to concerns about facing additional charges from the UAE government if she spoke publicly.
Dubai police, in a statement, disputed Stirling’s description of the altercation. According to the police, they received a complaint from the car rental office, accusing Allen of slander and defamation of an employee during a dispute over rental fees. The police questioned Allen in accordance with legal procedures and subsequently released her, pending the resolution of ongoing legal proceedings between her and the car rental agency.
In such cases, it is typical for police to impose travel bans until the matter is resolved. Police take statements from all parties involved and then decide whether to refer the case to prosecutors. Resolutions can occur through the complainant dropping the case, an agreement reached between the two parties, or a court hearing. Currently, Allen’s passport is being held by the authorities, according to Stirling.
The US State Department acknowledged that a US citizen, Tierra Young Allen, is unable to leave Dubai but did not provide further details on her situation. The department stated, “We take seriously our commitment to assist US citizens abroad and are providing all appropriate assistance. The Department remains in regular communication with her and her family. We will continue to monitor her case closely.”
The State Department also cautions travelers coming to the UAE about the risks of arrest, fines, and deportation for various speech-related infractions, including making rude gestures, using offensive language, and making derogatory statements about the UAE, its royal families, local governments, or individuals.
Under Emirati law, publicly insulting another person can result in a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of $9,250. Disputes over rental car agency fees have previously led to foreign tourists becoming stranded in Dubai.