The mum who was held in Dubai for calling her ex’s new wife a horse on Facebook has told how she was driven to the brink of suicide.Laleh Shahravesh
The mum who was held in Dubai for calling her ex’s new wife a horse on Facebook has told how she was driven to the brink of suicide.
Laleh Shahravesh feared she would never see her daughter again as she was detained for 33 days.
She became the first British citizen to be convicted under the Gulf state’s strict cyber crime laws.
Laleh was in trouble simply because her ex-husband’s new wife reported her to police for two emotional messages she posted three years ago.
There was an international outcry over her treatment.
And she was reunited with her 14-year-old daughter Paris in a tearful moment in the arrivals hall at Heathrow on Friday
Today she lays bare her full agony in her first interview since landing back in Britain.
Laleh, 55, sobbed as she admitted: “The day before I was told I was free to go I’d given up hope.
“I was suicidal. I felt like I was never going to see my daughter again and sent a message to my sister saying ‘I can’t do this any more.’
“I told her, ‘It’s killing me, every day is killing me.’ I felt so much pain and then I turned off my phone.
“I could see my whole life flashing before my eyes and I just wanted to die. It was torture to me.”
Yesterday her daughter Paris said: “I’m so happy to have Mum back. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her at the airport.
“It felt so surreal and for a second I just didn’t believe she was really there. It was an incredibly happy moment.
“It was awful being without her. It was as if a part of me was missing.”
Laleh, a privately educated doctor’s daughter from Richmond, Surrey, was arrested by police at Dubai Airport on March 10 after she and Paris travelled to the United Arab Emirates city.
They flew out so they could grieve at the graveside of Laleh’s ex-husband Pedro, a banker.
He died of a heart attack aged 51, just seven days earlier.
But as Laleh tried to go through passport control, she was hauled away for questioning by police.
They told her that her ex’s new wife, Samah, had made a legal complaint about two Facebook posts she wrote in 2016, including one where she described Samah as a horse.
Laleh says she and Paris cried in fear after being repeatedly shouted at by police officers, who initially held her at the airport for four hours.
She said: “Initially I thought it could be a visa problem. It all felt bizarre and I had no idea what was happening.
“I kept asking them, ‘What’s going on?’ but they wouldn’t tell me.
“The officers were very hostile and I felt really scared. Then a police officer came in and said ‘There’s a complaint against you. Do you know Samah al Hammadi?’
“I just burst into tears. I couldn’t believe that I had been arrested for two Facebook posts made in the UK three years ago.”
Laleh and Paris then spent 12 hours inside Jebel Ali Police Station outside the city.
There Laleh was ordered to sign a statement despite it being in Arabic and her having no understanding of what it said. She later discovered the translation of the Facebook post bore no relation to what she had written.
The statement had the word bitch substituted for horse.
The offending posts, which Laleh wrote after seeing a photo of her ex-husband getting remarried to his new Tunisian lover Samah, said: “I hope you go under the ground, you idiot. Damn you.
“You left me for this horse” and “You married a horse, you idiot.”
Laleh said: “I know I shouldn’t have posted the messages but at the time I was distraught. It was an awful time.
“Pedro had got remarried so quickly after our divorce, which I had never wanted, and I was still hurting.
“I remembered sending the post, but it had happened so long ago and me and Pedro had since made our peace.
“I had no idea about the law in Dubai or that you could even be prosecuted for such a thing. I thought ‘This is nonsense.’”
Laleh had previously lived in Dubai for eight months with Paris and Pedro after he landed a job as a risk manager with HSBC bank.
She returned home with their daughter in 2014 expecting him to return after he completed his work.
But he had begun a relationship with Samah and later filed for divorce after 18 years of marriage.
Five months after the divorce came through, Laleh discovered he had wed Samah. She admits she then posted the online abuse after becoming overwhelmed with shock and anger.
Laleh, who was privately educated in Guildford, Surrey, and used to work for London auctioneers Bonhams, was told she was being held in Dubai while she awaited a court hearing.
She made the heartbreaking decision to send Paris home on her own without her.
Laleh said: “Paris was absolutely terrified. I thought I can’t subject her to one more minute of this.
“I’m still getting shakes now thinking about that moment because I think that was when I realised everything had become real. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I said sorry to her so many times.”
In a desperate bid to get her mum released earlier this week, Paris wrote to Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed.
On Thursday, Laleh finally appeared before a judge.
In dramatic scenes Laleh collapsed outside the court as she sobbed on the steps and could be heard wailing: “I’m dying”.
The judge issued a written decision hours later ordering that Laleh could be released if she paid a £624 fine. Laleh said: “I was feeling really dizzy and sick and then I think I must have passed out because the next thing I knew I woke up and there was a message from my lawyer telling me a judge had ruled I was free to go.
“It felt like I was dreaming and I didn’t believe it was real. I burst into tears of happiness.”
But despite being overjoyed to be home, Laleh says she is still struggling to cope with life at home.
She has lost her job working at a homeless shelter due to her absence and even faces losing her home.
She said: “The moment I saw Paris at the airport was such an overwhelming moment. My heart was aching for her and being able to hold my girl again was so emotional.
“I’ll never forget that moment. Being apart from her had been brutal. I’m really happy to be home but I’m still so emotional. I still feel like I’m in a daze and I feel like a fraction of the person I was before.
“This has completely broken me physically and mentally. There were so many times I broke down. I was constantly terrified.
“I haven’t felt able to go outside yet since I got back. I feel very vulnerable and very exposed.
“It shouldn’t have even been a case, but nobody was willing to drop it and I felt like I wasn’t even allowed to have a defence.
“I just keep asking myself ‘Why?’ I’m a good person, I didn’t deserve what happened. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
Incredibly Laleh is now planning on returning to Dubai.
She said: “We made the decision to go to Dubai because Pedro died really suddenly and it was such a shock.
“Paris wanted to go out there and see his grave so that it could feel real and she could get some closure.
“I haven’t been banned from the country and there is nothing stopping me. It’s clear now the case should never have happened.”
Speaking about Samah, Laleh added: “I’m a very forgiving person, but I’m hurting too much at the moment to be able to even think about forgiving her.
“I feel very sad for her because she can’t be a very happy person.”