A young gay couple living in London, Spaniard Jimena Rico and Egyptian-born Shaza Ismail, said that they have had to endure death threats, humiliation, and even a stint in Turkish prison after the couple was tricked into visiting Dubai by Ismail’s father.
“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,” Rico, 28, told reporters after the couple’s safe return to her hometown of Torrox, Spain. She said that the couple had bought tickets to fly to Dubai on April 14 after Ismail’s father told them that Ismail’s mother was ill in the hospital.
“But it was trick,” Rico said. “He threatened to kill us and said we could go to jail for being lesbians.”
Rico said that the family locked up 21-year-old Ismail, but she was able to escape and the couple to boarded a flight to Tbilsi, Georgia. From there, they hoped to fly back home to London. But Ismail’s father tracked them down in the airport, and tore up Ismail’s papers and visa to prevent her return.
In the wake of the incident, Rico said that Georgian authorities escorted the couple to Turkey, where they were arrested and taken to Istanbul on charges “apparently to do with terrorism.” Rico said they were forced to sign papers they didn’t understand, and endured treatment that was “unexpected, inhumane and horrible.”
“I thought we were not going to get out of [prison],” Rico recalled. “They told me I could leave but she had to stay, and I said I wasn’t going without her.”
Rico managed to get word of their imprisonment to her family, and after three days in prison the Spanish foreign ministry managed to negotiate their release. Rico and Ismail were then flown to Spain, where they were welcomed home by Rico’s family.
Ismail’s father has denied the accusations against him, claiming that he had asked his daughter to “come home and talk” after she told them that she was a lesbian “via a text message.” He said he offered to take his daughter to a psychologist, and that she had agreed to stay in Dubai before her sudden disappearance from the family home.
After a “friend” told him that his daughter was in Georgia, Ismail’s father he said he visited her at the airport. The documents he tore up there, according to his version of events, were part of his daughter’s old passport, not her current one.
“I know that [Ismail’s father] loves her,” said Rico. “But his mind is so closed that he can’t understand.”
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