I’ve been following the story of the British couple jailed for kissing in Dubai with mixed feelings.
Following their arrest in November last year, lovebirds Ayman Najafi, 24, and Charlotte Adams, 25, were tried and convicted of breaking Dubai’s decency laws. They were sentenced to a month in prison with subsequent deportation and fined 1,000 dirhams (£200) for drinking alcohol.
Their first appeal against their conviction has been unsuccessful and now Najafi is adamant that the young lovers will make a second attempt to clear their names.
Love in the Open
A local woman whose two-year-old daughter saw them kiss on the mouth in a restaurant made the initial complaint against the couple. She accused them of breaking the country’s decency laws by kissing on the mouth at Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence restaurant.
The initial complaint against them was made by a 38-year-old woman who said she was offended by their behaviour at the, where she was dining with her daughter.
When in Dubai…
There’s an interesting take on this case, which has been deemed harsh and unfair by much of the international media, by BBC News correspondent Magdi Abdelhadi.
Magdi raises the valid point that while Dubai may look very Western with its “gleaming apartment blocks and super modern shopping malls.” But goes on to remark that “The Western façade can, however, lull the unsuspecting visitor into believing that it is also a liberal society.”
The correspondent points out that it is often traveling Westerners and expats that come unstuck by not adhering to Dubai’s social codes of conduct when it comes to drinking alcohol and public displays of affection.
“While an unmarried Western couple can share a room in a hotel – or even live together – they are expected to observe local custom when outside their home.” – Magdi affirms.
One of the defendants in this particular case, Najafi, is of Muslim origin, which adds another twist to the tale. The judge dismissed the appeal outright, saying he upheld the previous sentence. The young lovers have decided not to start their sentence immediately, but Dubai authorities are holding their passports so they can’t return to the UK.
The British Foreign Office advises Britons going to be wary of breaching local customs. A statement on its travel advice website reads: “Britons can find themselves facing charges relating to cultural differences, such as using bad language, rude gestures or public displays of affection.”
There have been several reported cases of foreigners breaking Dubai’s strict decency laws over the past couple of years:
In March, an Indian couple were sentenced to three months in jail in Dubai after sending each other sexually explicit text messages.
In 2008, two Britons accused of having sex on a beach in Dubai were sentenced to three months in jail, though the sentences were later suspended.