Lesbians who endured ‘inhumane’ time in jail due to homophobic father get engaged
A lesbian couple tricked into flying to Dubai, where homosexuality is illegal, has opened up about the “inhumane” experience.
The odyssey which followed their flight to the United Arab Emirates spanned five countries and encompassed death threats, an escape across international borders and a spell in a Turkish jail.
After finally reaching safety, the London-based women – Spaniard Jimena Rico and Egyptian-born Shaza Ismail – have announced that they plan to get married.
The couple had their lives turned upside down when Ismail’s father said her mother – who lives there – was on her deathbed, according to Rico.
Speaking in her hometown of Torrox in southern Spain, Rico called this “a trick,” adding that Ismail’s father “threatened to kill us and said we could go to jail for being lesbians,” the BBC has reported.
Rico, 28, said: “I really want to tell our story because I think it could help many people who live in a situation of repression for being homosexual.”
Ismail, 21, then told the press that she was locked up by her family, before the couple escaped Dubai and flew to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
But Ismail’s father caught wind of this development and tracked them down to the airport in Tbilisi before confronting the pair as they waited to board a flight back to London.
He tore up his daughter’s papers, including the visa she required for her re-entry to the UK.
Rico said the Georgian authorities subsequently escorted the couple to the border with Turkey.
The pair was then arrested in northern Turkey and taken Istanbul, where Rico said the two women were charged with an offence “apparently to do with terrorism,” before signing papers they couldn’t read.
Their treatment in the Istanbul prison was “unexpected, inhumane and horrible,” Rico said.
While in prison, Rico contacted her family, who told Spanish police and got the ball rolling on releasing the women.
After three days, the Spanish foreign ministry secured their release, allowing them to fly to Rico’s family in Spain.
“I thought we were not going to get out of (prison),” Rico said.
“They told me I could leave but she had to stay, and I said I wasn’t going without her.”
Ismail’s father has told a different story, though he admitted travelling to the airport in Tbilisi and forcibly attempting to keep his daughter from escaping.
“When she arrived in Dubai, I embraced her,” the father told Spain’s Antena 3 television channel.
“She said she wanted to stay in London and I asked her to come home and talk about her being a lesbian because she told us via text message.
“She came out of the closet like that, sending her mother a text message.”
He said that after his daughter escaped from Dubai, he went to the police, adding that “a friend told me Shaza was in Georgia and I reported that she had run away or been kidnapped.”
Rico said that she accepted he was doing what he thought was right, saying: “I know that (Ismail’s) father loves her. But his mind is so closed that he can’t understand.”
Same-sex couples can be imprisoned for up to 10 years for consensual sex in Dubai.
In 2012, a 24-year-old man was sentenced to a year in prison and subsequent deportation after his gay relationship was discovered in Dubai.
And earlier this year, a man spoke out about how he was violently threatened and robbed during a Grindr hook-up in Dubai.
He feared it was part of a systematic targeting of gay visitors, after more men came forward.