Two Singaporean men have been jailed for a year each in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for allegedly wearing women's clothing and sporting a feminine appearance.
A non-governmental organisation 'Detained in Dubai' published an article regarding the background on the arrest and conviction of the duo on LinkedIn. According to the article, the Singaporeans were arrested on Aug 9 at a shopping mall for 'looking feminine' after arriving at the country on Aug 8.
Radha Stirling, the CEO of the organization said that "the UAE has built a tolerant, cosmopolitan image, but the laws continue to reflect the conservative, traditional values of the society. It is not uncommon for visitors to be confused about what is or is not acceptable behaviour."
However, an Arabic court document said that the two Singaporeans were arrested for wearing women's clothes in public and for behaving indecently.
The New Paper has identified the individuals to be 26-year-old fashion photographer Fadli Rahman and 37-year-old Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim.
Reports said that Nur is a transgender person, who had legally changed her name but has not undergone any gender reassignment surgery to become a woman.
Under UAE law, cross-dressing, homosexuality and transgender behaviour are crimes in the country.
When asked about the incident, Fadli's family said that they have not spoken to him since Aug 9. Nur had last sent them a selfie from UAE. Saiful Rahman, Fadli's brother said that his parents are extremely worried about Fadli and they have crying a lot after receiving news of his arrest. His sister, Rozy, added that she is also worried about her detained sibling.
"We have a family WhatsApp group and Fifi often sent us messages whenever she was away. This time, she suddenly went silent and this was out of character. A few days later, we received a voice message from her saying she had been arrested. I was shocked," Rozy told The Straits Times. "Fifi has not undergone gender reassignment surgery, so her personal documents still state her gender as male."
Rozy added that Fadli had visited UAE four times in the past and returned safely each time.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, has issued a statement over the incident in response to media queries. "I'm sorry to hear about this. Rest assured that our consular and mission colleagues will do their best to assist your brother. I understand that they are already in contact with you and your brother. Please let me know if you need further assistance," he said in a statement.
Reports said that Fadli and Nur have until Sep 4 to appeal against their sentence.