Less than a month ago, Spaniard Jimena Rico, and Egyptian-born Shaza Ismail were just like any other young, gay couple in London, the city where their romance blossomed.
But after a call from Ms Ismail’s father, the two set out on on a trip which they say involved death threats, escape across international borders, and a spell in a Turkish jail where, Ms Ismail says, the treatment was “unexpected, inhumane and horrible”.
Safe in Ms Rico’s Spanish hometown of Torrox, the couple faced the cameras to reveal a nightmarish three-week ordeal which, according to Ms Rico, began after her partner’s family in Dubai had tried to separate them by force.
“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,” Ms Rico told reporters who had gathered in the room to hear their story.
It had all started innocently enough. According to the 28-year-old, the couple flew from London to Dubai on 14 April because Ms Ismail’s father had said that her mother was ill in hospital.
“But it was a trick,” said Jimena Rico. “He threatened to kill us and said we could go to jail for being lesbians.”