When Iman Gustafsson flew out for a holiday in Dubai in September of 2017, she had no idea she would still be out there eighteen months later.
The 42-year old mother, a North Macedonian national who was previously married to a Scandinavian man, came to Switzerland in the Nineties, and is generally a jolly person though she does have a few mental issues, such as borderline personality disorder. Indeed, in recent years, the Office of Guardianship in Zug has been looking after her financial affairs and she was in fact due to be admitted to the Zug Psychiatric Clinic in Oberwil in October of 2017, but was unable to go and remains in the United Arab Emirates to this day.
“The reason I went to Dubai was to relax a little before going into the clinic,” she said in a telephone call earlier this month. She explained that, during her first few days out there, she was in a shopping mall and met an Iraqi man of the same age. “He told me he was in Dubai as his mother was going to have an operation and was very worried about her. Bearing in mind I had mental problems myself, I felt for him. We got to know each other better and went on a few trips together,” she said.
It was shortly before she was due to return to Switzerland that the Iraqi suggested they went on a trip to the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed mosque. As they were having to make an early start, the Iraqi suggested she stay at his hotel, to which she agreed, but insisted on a separate room. At the hotel she duly took a shower during which the Iraqi promised to stay on the balcony. “Then we went off to buy food, but I noticed how my Iraqi friend was taking photographs of my legs on his mobile phone. I immediately asked him to delete them. When he refused to, I grabbed the phone and noticed that he had not waited on the balcony while I had showered but had filmed me. Out of fear he had already sent the photographs on somewhere, I called the police, which resulted in him feeling as if his honour had been questioned, and it seemed to me he as if he was out for revenge. When the police came, the Iraqi said we were a couple and had already had sex.”
To find out the truth, non-marital sex being against the law in the UAE, Gustafsson was taken to hospital to undergo tests, which showed, after a two-week wait, she had not had sex. She had also had to surrender her passport. She was assured that, after a court case had taken place, she would be able to return home. “Yet this was eighteen months ago, and I am still here.”
She mentioned that for the court appearance she needed a lawyer, so called the Swiss embassy for assistance. “However, they explained they could only help Swiss nationals. I have lived in Switzerland for 30 years yet now I was expected to seek help from the embassy of North Macedonia. All they did was recommend the names of two lawyers; they never even visited me.” When a journalist of the Zuger Zeitung duly contacted them about this, no reply was forthcoming. There were further complications as Gustafsson said the authorities in Zug were responsible for her. “They were aware of my situation but did nothing,” she claimed. Furthermore, the person who acted on her behalf in Zug informed her he was no longer able to pay her rent, leading to her tenancy being terminated. All she does get is her CHF 900 invalidity pension, though the rent on the room she lives in Dubai costs CHF 850. In addition to this, she needs medicine and psychological support. She has also been to see a German-speaking psychiatrist in Dubai and sent his report back to her representative in Zug, pointing out the vulnerability of her mental state.
Gustafsson’s 20-year-old daughter, who lives in Lucerne, has also been in touch with her mother’s representative in Zug. Indeed, it was she, the daughter, who contacted the newspaper about her mother’s predicament. She fears if she goes to Dubai, she herself might be detained. Meanwhile the authorities in Zug explained that it is only the embassy of the country of which she is a national which can help in such cases, adding that the woman’s representative had acted with great determination in the matter. Requests for help from the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Bern have gone unheeded.
In the meantime, Gustafsson’s family has raised CHF 15,000 to pay for a lawyer, three hearings having taken place so far. It was noted, too, that, after the second hearing, she had been thrown into a prison cell, only thanks to her lawyer paying a fee was she able to be released. What annoyed her was that, even though the tests on her were conclusive, the judge insisted on asking lots of questions about her sex life.
For its part, the Zuger Zeitung has found out that, according to a ruling issued in February, Gustafsson is no longer under suspicion and that proceedings are to cease, though it seems her passport has not been returned to her. “I would rather commit suicide than have to go back to court again,” she is reported to have said.
Now it has been confirmed she can get her passport back as soon as she has paid CHF 2,000. The reason for this is that just being with that Iraqi under those circumstances was an offence in itself.
Now she is looking forward to coming home to Zug, and being admitted to the psychiatric clinic, as she has a lot to digest.
The photograph shows Iman Gustafsson sitting by a windcatcher with the Burj al Arab hotel in the background.