Saudi Arabian journalist speaks about why he’s seeking asylum

One of the two Saudi Arabian journalists who are seeking asylum in Australia has spoken to TIME about why they no longer felt safe in their home country.

Sultan and Nassar* have been held by the Australian government for several months after claiming asylum. The two men fled Saudi Arabia in October claiming that they had been outed by the government who were cracking down on dissenting media.

Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records for LGBTI rights in the world, with people accused of same-sex relationships facing public whipping, torture and lifetime jail sentences or execution.

The two men arrived in Australia on a tourist visa, and told Australian officials upon their arrival that they were seeking asylum. They were immediately placed into detention. on Friday the Australian government released Nassar, and yesterday Sultan was also released from detention.

Speaking to TIME Sultan shared his experience of being interrogated by Saudi Arabian authorities in 2018 who accused him of helping a foreign journalist learn about potential human rights abuses in the kingdom. When the authorities began cracking down on journalists again earlier this year, and relatives of his longterm partner began threatening to out the couple, they knew they were no longer safe.

Sultan says they were aware of Australia’s strict regime against people arriving in the country by boat, which is why they made sure they had a least tourist visas to reach Australia and came by plane. As soon as they made their declaration for asylum they were put into handcuffs and transferred to the Villawood Detention Centre.

“Although I’ve been threatened, intimidated and bullied in Saudi Arabia, I was never thrown in a jail cell without charge. That didn’t happen to us until we came to Australia.” Sultan said.

Read the whole interview at TIME

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the two men.

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