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Fadli And Fifi Return Home After Arrest In Abu Dhabi For Cross-dressing

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Duration: 8min 15sec
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Published: 08 September 2017 (9 months ago)
Author: Homosexuality In Singapore

This video was uploaded to Yahoo!'s website on 1 September 2017:
Singaporean photographer opens up about harrowing jail time in Abu Dhabi
Nurul Azliah
Yahoo Lifestyle. 1 September 2017
What was supposed to be a joyous holiday for Muhammad Fadli Abdul Rahman in Abu Dhabi turned out to be a harrowing experience for the Singaporean fashion photographer when he was jailed by local authorities for almost three weeks in three different places.
The 26-year-old was arrested along with his Singaporean friend Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, 37, on 9 August, just one day after they arrived in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Speaking to the media for the first time since his return to Singapore on Tuesday (29 August), Fadli told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore on Thursday (31 August) that he and Nur were not aware of the specific charges they would be facing for a few days. He assumed their arrest could be related to them being accused by the local police of looking feminine.
It was only about five days after their arrest that a court told the duo that they were accused of wearing women’s clothes and behaving indecently, charges that Fadli vehemently denied. They were sentenced to one year’s jail and deportation from the UAE.
“I was wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt, long black pants and a pair of sneakers. Fifi (Nur) was wearing pants and a checkered shirt. We were not wearing dresses or were in women’s clothing,” Fadli said.
Sporting a shaven head after his stint in prison, Fadli said that he was hoping to meet potential clients in Abu Dhabi but instead, he had “bought a ticket to go straight to jail”. Nur, a pre-surgery transgender person, was also forced to have her long hair shaved off.
Fadli and Nur were detained in Abu Dhabi’s Central Investigation Department, the city’s biggest prison Al Wathba and a “detainees’ apartment”.
While in detention, Fadli inadvertently found out about how the media was reporting about the arrest when he overheard an inmate talking to his sister in English. Fadli was deeply affected by their conversation about the duo and said the media was sensationalising about the circumstances surrounding their arrest.
Day of the arrest
Fadli and Nur arrived in Abu Dhabi on 8 August but did not walk about in the city until the next day. It is a city familiar to Nur and she had visited it a few times without incident. Their ordeal began while they were walking around in Yas Mall on 9 August when they heard someone yelling at them.
“A man dressed in a kandura (an ankle-length Arab garment) and headgear shouted at us from behind. He showed us his police badge and asked if we were male or female,” said Fadli, who was in Abu Dhabi for the first time.
The man, who was a police officer, confiscated the duo’s identification cards and took them to the tourism police office in the mall.
“At the tourism police office, we just kept asking them ‘what’s happening?’ and ‘why are you arresting us?’,” said Fadli. He and Nur had their mobile phones with them but they were not allowed to make any phone calls in the office.
Contrary to media reports, Fadli said the duo hadn’t reached the food court in the mall when they were arrested as they were still deciding on a place to eat. The duo were then escorted to Abu Dhabi’s CID headquarters, where they had their legs shackled and valuables confiscated.
It wasn’t until more than 12 hours later when they had their valuables returned briefly before they were transferred to another cell. During the transfer, Fadli quickly took the opportunity to text Vanessa Ho, his housemate in Singapore.
“I had one per cent of power left in my phone’s battery. I think that was my lucky one per cent. So I discreetly texted my housemate to say, ‘Help. I’m detained… they thought we looked feminine’.” Fadli wasn’t able to contact the Singapore embassy due to the low phone battery. A police officer caught Fadli using his phone but did not confiscate it.
Life in an Abu Dhabi prison
When the duo were told by the court about the jail sentence, they were shocked and angry at the “unfair” verdict. “I think it’s quite ridiculous to be sentenced for a year for what they call crossdressing and we weren’t even crossdressing. We just didn’t know how to feel,” said Fadli.
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