Sunday 19 November 2017

Tourist arrested after reporting alleged gang rape in Dubai speaks out about 'nightmare' ordeal

Rachael Pells

A British tourist facing jail after telling police she had been gang raped has spoken out about her “nightmare” ordeal.

The 25-year-old woman was on holiday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when she was allegedly attacked by two British men last month.

When she reported the rape at a police station in Dubai, she was arrested and charged with “extra-marital sex”, a crime punishable by jail, flogging and stoning to death in the strictly conservative country.

UK-based campaign group Detained in Dubai said she had been released on bail and was staying with a British family, but has had her passport confiscated and cannot leave the country.

The group is in contact with the woman’s family, who claim the two men took it in turns to rape her while filming the attack at a hotel in the city.

With news of her arrest making international headlines, the woman sent a message through her father thanking people for their support.

According to The Mirror, she said: “I want to say a huge thank you to everybody for supporting me. Without the loving, kind and supportive words I couldn’t get through the long days.

“It’s petrifying out here alone but I have to stay strong. There are many hurdles to cross and many emotional, fearful times ahead.”

An online appeal launched by the victim’s family has so far raised close to £25,000 (€29,170) for legal fees needed to pay for her defence.

Her alleged attackers were arrested and bailed, but have since left the country, it has been reported.

The woman in question had travelled to Dubai on holiday and had planned to go on to Australia.

In another message to supporters on Facbeook, she said: "I’m trying to stay positive and focused.“

Responding to the level of support received, she added: “This helps me a lot because it makes me realise that you are all so loving and supportive and I feel like I'm talking directly to each and every one of you.

”I’m so overwhelmed by the amount of progress going into helping support me financially and lovingly. There are some very special people out there that have surprised me beyond belief and have brought tears to my eyes with such appreciation.

“My mum also left to go back home this week. It was so hard saying goodbye and as I hugged her I said 'I'm so sad because I don't know when I'll be able to hold onto you again' we both cried but I told mum to be strong for the both of us.”

She finished the message by saying: “I have so much love and appreciation of those who touch my heart everyday as they continue to talk to me, support me and make me feel loved.

”Thank you to everyone who has donated ... my promise to you is to thank each and every individual at some point when this nightmare is over.

“I miss my family so much. They send me pictures and there's nothing better than that to make me smile.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told The Independent it was aware of the case and providing support to the woman and her relatives, as well as remaining in contact with local authorities.

Detained in Dubai issued a warning to British tourists and expats this week, urging them not to report incidents of rape in the UAE because of the “racist” preconceptions held against Western tourists.

Radha Stirling, founder of the charity, told The Independent: “We get people contacting us asking whether they should report a crime and – whether it be a rape or anything else – I often say no. Absolutely not.

“It’s about the laws for one, but it also comes down to the application of the law… the police are wary of false accusations, so when a report does come in they think, ‘Oh, maybe the girl was just drunk and then she regretted it the next day’.

“There is the social perception that if a woman drinks alcohol, she has consented to it. And there’s also a racist mentality of thinking, ‘She’s British so she was probably drunk and asking for it’.”

Ms Stirling added that she personally would not report a rape in the UAE, saying: “There’s so much manipulation when it comes to criminal accusations over there – I wouldn’t report a rape there if I were raped myself.”

After posting an online appeal for help, the woman's mother wrote: “Please help my daughter.

“She was raped while on holiday. She reported this to the police and now she is being held on the grounds of sexual activity outside marriage.

“We are not a rich family and cannot afford to pay for the defense she so desperately needs.

“I am going out of my mind with worry.”

A Foreign Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We are supporting a British woman in relation to this case and will remain in contact with her family.”

Travel advice for the UAE states that all sexual relations outside marriage are considered illegal, whatever a couple’s relationship at home, alongside homosexual sex and same-sex marriages.

“It’s against the law to live together, or to share the same hotel room, with someone of the opposite sex to whom you aren’t married or closely related,” the FCO advises.

There have been several cases in recent years involving women from Western countries including Norway, Australia and the UK hae been detained after reporting incidents of rape.

Police in Dubai are said to be investigating mobile phone footage of the attack, as the case continues.

Independent News Service

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