Gay Saudi journalists both freed from Australian detention after ‘powerful’ LGBT community rallied round them
The two gay Saudi journalists who sought asylum in Australia have both finally been freed after one was forced to remain alone in a detention centre due to a ‘clerical error’ by a government official.
The two men, known by pseudonyms Sultan and Nassar, fled Saudi Arabia where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. On arrival in Australia they were held indefinitely in a detention centre where they said they were threatened, intimidated and “treated like criminals.”
Nassar was eventually released after sustained pressure from global news organisations, but Australia’s immigration minister neglected to sign Sultan’s paperwork before unexpectedly going on indefinite personal leave.
The cause was championed by the Australian LGBT+ community who “rallied round” the pair, with advocacy group Just.equal launching an urgent call for the acting minister not to go on holiday until he freed Sultan.
Now, finally, the couple have been reunited in time for Christmas.
“Definitely, definitely, definitely the gay community rallied around us in a way that was so endearing and so powerful that I really feel it was the gay community that did this,” Sultan told Star Observer.
“Dozens of people directly addressed the minister, that’s for sure and having [human rights activist] Ivan Hinton-Teoh on our side was a big, big, big plus.”
Really from the bottom of our hearts we have to thank the LGBT community. Just all the love that we saw… it really feels like we were adopted and this is our new family.
The couple were devastated when Sultan was forced to remain in detention alone, saying it had added “unnecessary suffering” to their months-long plight. But Sultan bravely declared that despite the “mental anguish” of their separation, he was pleased that it was Nassar who was released rather than him.
“When Nassar left on Friday it was a very rough day for me because we thought we would be out together,” Sultan told Star Observer once outside Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
Now the gay Saudi couple are finally able to live and love freely in Australia. “We’re gonna be out there. We want to go to the clubs, we want to see what Australian gay society is like. And we just wanna be able to breathe and feel free and not be scared,” Sultan said.
He added: “Really from the bottom of our hearts we have to thank the LGBT community. Just all the love that we saw on Twitter and on Facebook… I mean it really feels like we were adopted and this is our new family.”
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