Laleh Shahravesh, a British citizen, was arrested at a Dubai airport after flying there to attend her former husband's funeral. She currently faces two years in prison for calling her ex-husband's new wife a "horse" in comments she wrote on Facebook.
British mother faces two years in Dubai jail for calling ex-husband's wife a 'horse' in 2016 Facebook posts… https://t.co/alV8GDrhjR— ITV News (@ITV News) 1554671434.0
The campaign group Detained in Dubai says Shahravesh was married to her ex-husband for 18 years, during which time she lived in the United Arab Emirates for eight months. Her husband stayed in the UAE; she returned to the UK with their daughter, and the two eventually got divorced.
Shahravesh discovered her ex-husband was remarrying when she saw photos of him and his new wife on Facebook in 2016. She wrote two comments in Farsi.
One of them read:
"I hope you go under the ground you idiot. Damn you. You left me for this horse."
Detained in Dubai says Shahravesh's ex-husband's new wife reported the comments; Shahravesh faces prison time––or a fine of £50,000 ($65,000)––under the UAE's cyber-crime laws, even though she wrote the comments while in the UK. The laws prohibit defamatory statements on social media.
Shahravesh was arrested March 10. At the time of her arrest, she was with her 14-year-old daughter, Paris, who later had to return home alone. Paris has appealed to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to authorize her mother's release from police custody, saying her mother had been forced to sign a statement by police that was "written in Arabic, which she did not understand":
"I cannot emphasise enough how scared I felt, especially after losing my father just a week before, as I was having to worry about losing my mother as well. ...
I ask kindly: please, please return my mother's passport, and let her come home."
"Every day feels a little harder...I've never been without my mum for so long." Paris Shahravesh, daughter of a w… https://t.co/TWgUnCswou— ITV News (@ITV News) 1554906472.0
"Shahravesh's emotional state is terrible, really. The whole family is suffering tremendously as a result of this," says Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai.
The UAE has faced significant criticism since the story went public.
It would appear that under the 'law' in the UAE, if I called an ex-girlfriend 'a horse' on social media, and she we… https://t.co/fvP035v6LP— Guy Walters (@Guy Walters) 1554709654.0
Dubai and other countries' laws which trip up travellers — The case of the British woman facing jail in Dubai for c… https://t.co/pebsBWASVB— Alfons López Tena #FBPE (@Alfons López Tena #FBPE) 1554741987.0
Unlike in the free world, Libel in Dubai carries automatic arrest and detention, no statute of limitations. Dubai s… https://t.co/R8uUNF7CSk— Herve Jaubert (@Herve Jaubert) 1554799278.0
Yet another example of how unsafe Dubai is #HumanRights #FreeLatifa #BoycottDubai BBC News - British woman faces Du… https://t.co/Ck8ZIxqxrd— supermarko (@supermarko) 1554769203.0
Two years in prison for calling someone an horse on Facebook is absolutely laughable. Fuck Dubai and it’s third wor… https://t.co/N28vxJg85T— Sam Jones (@Sam Jones) 1554759629.0
Although Dubai is a popular vacation spot for many tourists, many are unaware of the strict penalties they face if found in violation of the UAE's penal code.
In 2017, a Scottish man was charged with public indecency after touching another man's hip in a crowded bar. He was sentenced to three months in jail. He returned home after Dubai's ruler exonerated him.