After reporting a rape in Dubai, a 29-year-old student from Austria was arrested for the “crime” of engaging in extra marital sex and told by police that she would be charged and sent to prison for one year unless she married her rapist. She was also accused of drinking alcohol, another crime in Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates
The woman, who is understood to be Muslim, had been at a party in a hotel where alcohol is oftentimes served to Westerners. She was attacked by a Yemini man who cornered her in an underground parking lot. After reporting the rape, her passport was taken away and she was jailed by Dubai authorities.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry sent a special crisis team to Dubai to negotiate her release, which came surprisingly quickly. The woman, who remains unnamed, was allowed to leave Dubai and arrived recently in Vienna after a two-month ordeal.
"We noticed that a favorable moment arose to get her out. (Foreign) Minister (Sebastian) Kurz personally authorized me to travel down there and, if possible, to bring her back to Vienna, and that is what we did," said Michael Linhart, secretary general of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, speaking to ORF radio.
Linhart also said that it remains to be seen if the UAE will drop the charges against her.
An online petition, initiated by the international advocacy organization Avaaz, demanding the woman's release garnered over a quarter of a million signatures in just a few days and is believed to have contributed to successfully pressuring authorities in the UAE to release the woman.
The case is reminiscent of the arrest and sentencing of a 25-year-old Norwegian woman last year who reported being raped by a Sudanese colleague and was subsequently thrown in jail. After an international outcry and much negative press against the UAE, she and her rapists were “pardoned” by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and allowed to leave the country.