Dubai: A British woman who was kidnapped and gang-raped by three Iranian men in Dubai has come forward to talk about the brutal attack.
In an interview to XPRESS a week after the Dubai Court of First Instance sentenced two of the accused to ten years in prison (the third one is missing) the woman said: “The judgment has restored my faith in the UAE. I am grateful to the authorities. I am glad I chose to stay in Dubai and not only report the crime, but see the trial through to their [accused] conviction.”
The 29-year-old victim (whose identity has not been revealed to protect her privacy) is a successful entrepreneur in Dubai and has been running a company here for five years, hosting events for high-profile clients in the Middle East.
Her company employs up to 40 people per month on various projects and she is associated with several local charities besides being a regular volunteer for good causes.
Reacting strongly to reports in the local and international press which called her a “drunken clubber”, she said: “The implication is largely that the victim is somehow at fault and that being under the influence of alcohol is a cause or an acceptable reason to rape and kidnap any woman. In my case, I was not even remotely drunk, and a breathalyser and blood test administered by the police resulted in a negative reading for alcohol.”
The incident occurred on the night of July 6 last year after the woman left Rock Bottom, a bar in Bur Dubai. She admitted to authorities in her statement that she consumed a small quantity of alcohol at the bar, but not enough to have been drunk or incapacitated. This is backed by medical evidence and the police report.
“I wanted to come forward about this, because it is extremely damaging to already traumatised rape victims to suggest that anything they have done prior to the incident gives men the right to sexually assault women. It is also personally distressing, as it has damaged my reputation and credibility during the trial.
“I hope that in future cases, journalists look closely at the facts before accusing victims,” she said. “It is natural for victims to blame themselves, and portraying any woman as being responsible for a rape or kidnap is an archaic and backward mentality.”
Recalling the sequence of events, the victim said she was with a friend at the Yacht Club in Dubai Marina. Since he was unwell, she took him home. “As he had mislaid his house keys, I went to another bar in a different part of town (the Bur Dubai bar) to meet his sister and collect the keys on his behalf. Whilst there and waiting for the sister at around 1am, I bought a drink. After a few sips, I almost immediately felt very strange and unwell and left the bar with the intention of getting a taxi home.”
Although the woman blacked out and has a poor memory of what happened next, she could recall “fragments and flashbacks”. According to police, CCTV evidence and the taxi driver’s testimony, she was semi-conscious in the back seat of the taxi she had taken from the bar.
“Despite my living in a villa in Emirates Hills, the taxi driver inexplicably took me to Jumeirah Beach Residence. Immediately, three men pulled up in a red Hyundai and said that they knew me and would take me home. I denied knowing the men and refused to get in the car.”
“Official reports stated that the taxi driver has confirmed he received money from the men. This could be construed as a bribe as the taxi driver did not report the kidnap to the police and instead drove away. It has been claimed that this money was to cover my taxi fare although they paid Dh100, which was nearly double the Dh58 bill.”
“In their statement to the police, one of the men admitted that he was frightened about “kidnapping a British woman” and that they would “get in trouble”. However, his friend convinced him and said that I would not be able to identify them to the police.
“After attempting to convince me that their car was in fact my car, and that they would take me home they eventually grabbed me from the street by force and dragged me into their car.”
The woman said: “I am devastated to learn that witnesses overheard these men plotting their crime, and they did nothing to help me, nor did they report the kidnap to police. It was not made clear in the press or publicly that these men took me forcefully, and the general perception is that I was drunk and that I willingly got in their car. Thank God for the amazing support and investigation done by the local CID who pieced together the events of the night.”
The victim said she remembers several men raping her and abusing her in a run-down studio flat in an old part of town which was later identified as Naif in Deira. She has also testified that they filmed the attack while they took turns, laughed and physically and sexually assaulted her.
She said that she made several attempts to escape and that her attackers may have left her unconscious in the apartment. But she managed to eventually get out, and ran screaming into the street in Naif. Despite her memory problems, she estimated that this was at around 6am the next day.
She said a passer-by took her to a friend’s place in Jumeirah Lake Towers as she was hysterically crying and bleeding from several injuries. Her friend advised her to go straight to the police, which she did with her roommate immediately that morning. She first reported the crime to the Jebel Ali Police, then went to Rashid Hospital to receive medical care for her injuries and finally headed to the Rashidya Police Station where the CID took over the case.
“Fortunately, the CID tracked the taxi from the bar to Jumeirah Beach Residence and accessed CCTV footage. They then followed the defendants’ vehicle to their apartment in Naif. They were arrested within 48 hours of the crime and formally charged with kidnap, rape and illegal confinement,” she said.
However, the victim said she could not identify the attackers during the identity parade.
Pamela Haidat, Partner and Lawyer at Nasser Malalla Advocates and Legal Consultants, said: “We are thankful to the authorities for their quick response. We had every faith in the UAE judicial system and were confident that justice would be served.”
The victim said: “I am pleased that justice has been served and these men have been sentenced to ten years. I am also pleased to know that the police considered them dangerous and held them in custody for the duration of the trial. Men that plan to abduct women in this fashion are not opportunists; these are premeditated attacks. I know that the trauma I have gone through during the trial and having to testify against them in court means that other women are safe in Dubai.
Horror and disgust
“One of the defendant’s families has come forward to express their horror and disgust at the injuries that were inflicted upon me.”
She said she and other human rights advocates are hoping to establish a charity in Dubai to assist women in similar situations and provide help to local authorities in dealing with such crimes.
“The kidnap and assault will live with me forever, but I really hope that through my own experiences we can help other women. Those men will be free in ten years, but rape is a life sentence for victims. I do not want to be portrayed as a drunken clubber, or even a victim — I want to be known as a survivor.”