tv Locked Up Abroad MSNBC January 10, 2016 2:00am-3:01am PST
i didn't really know a lot about saudi arabia. it looked fantastic. palm trees, sun. what more can you ask for? >> cheers. >> the biggest shock is when i read a line, homosexuality is a crime. i wondered would it be safe for me to go there. >> i'm gay. >> i just couldn't believe there was drugs. there was alcohol, gay men. they were doing it. so why not me? >> hi. >> are you homosexual?
>> i did start to forget about the danger. i was very naive. >> why are you here? >> it was just unbelievable fear. homosexuality was punishable by death. >> please help me. >> i was working at a medical hospital as a staff nurse in intensive care. there is no other job that, you know, i would rather do. i loved doing the job, and i loved looking after people. i got married in 1989 to jolene. she was a lovely looking girl, and we had a great time. i was very happy. >> this is the best day ever. >> when you have kids, you can't imagine your life without them. it was good.
they're worth it. then it was always at the back of my mind, i knew i didn't want to be there. i was living a lie. i knew that i was gay. i grew up in ireland, so ireland is quite strict catholic country. so i really didn't put any thoughts or feelings of homosexuality to the back of my mind because i brought up knowing that it's room. so i put them in that room and closed the door. my wife deserved better. she deserved to be happy, and i was making her very unhappy. i just felt that she had a right to know because she could move on. i moved into my friend gemma's
flat. it was a mess. my life was a mess after that. i had a broken marriage and i was living in somebody's spare bedroom. i had promised that i would financially still look after my wife and my kids. i got myself into a lot of debt. i was at the point of being bankrupt. and so i was very stressed. one day i finished night shift. i was having a cup of coffee. and i was flipping through the job section of the nursing magazine, and i seen an ad for -- that said nurses urgently required to work in the middle east. there is a big light bulb went
on over my head. and i thought, you know, i could do that. and you had free flights and it was free accommodation. gemma thought it could be an option for her. >> you should go for it. >> it seemed like a great idea to go over there so that i could support my ex-wife and my kids. i just thought this is it. three weeks later i got a phone call from the agency. >> hello? >> she said i've got really good news for you. i have a hospital in riyadh in saudi arabia. she said that the salary was the best in riyadh. >> great. >> and she also said, you know, you and gemma will be working together. >> that is brilliant.
>> so we had checked every box that we aimed to take. >> okay, thanks, bye, bye, bye. >> i didn't really know a lot about saudi arabia. i knew it was a country in the middle east, but i didn't know anything about it. we received a detail of where we would be living. >> welcome. >> it looked fantastic. it looked like a brochure you would pick up in a travel agent. the white buildings, the swimming pool and tennis courts. so happy days. palm trees, sun. what more can you ask for? it told us a few more interesting facts about saudi arabia like it was a very strict muslim country. alcohol was banned. there was no pubs. there was no clubs. males and females are segregated from an early age, and that you weren't allowed to be seen with a female unless you were married to her. and if you weren't married to her, you could be arrested for it. the biggest shock was when i read a line that said homosexuality is a crime and was
punishable by death. i was completely taken aback by it. that somebody would actually kill you for being gay. i did wonder would it be safe for me to go there. i basically made the decision to not have sex for however long i was there. >> it's fine. it's fine. >> i was naive to think that i was going go to a country and be celibate. it was very naive of me to think that. i was in a big river called denial. i had buried my head in the sand. finally the day arrived that we were leaving. i told my kids that i loved them and i would see them -- i would
see them really soon. >> i love you both very much. you be good, okay? >> my whole thoughts were i was basically doing it for them. i had so much financial strife that i knew it was going to end up affecting my kids, and i wouldn't be able to give them the life that they deserve. so that was it. and i said goodbye to them. >> we arrived in riyadh. we were met by two representatives of the hospital. we went outside. i remember the heat.
it just felt it was choking me. i made to get into the back with gemma, and one of the men stopped me. >> no, no, no. >> and told me that i wasn't allowed. i asked him why i had to sit in the front. and he just told me it wasn't allowed. i just thought i'm not even allowed to speak to gemma in a vehicle. this is crazy. so first we drive out of the airport and we hit riyadh. eventually we arrived at the compound. there were security guards outside it. i wanted to get out of the car, and the driver told me to stay, stay where i was. and he just shook his head at me and said no, female only.
>> i think it's just you. >> and i was really shocked. i mean, we had been told that we would be living together, and now everything had changed. and i just remember thinking to myself this is not what i signed up for. this is not what they told me. we drove for about another half hour. and then we stopped outside this apartment block. a guy told me to get out. it was a very bland looking rundown apartment block. and we walked in. i was completely and utterly
shocked. because it was so not what i expected. imagine the worst place you can ever live in and times it by ten. it was filthy. and it had cockroaches. they were everywhere. in the bathroom, even, there was one in my toothbrush. it was horrible. i was exhausted. i was just thinking, well, it's not a good start to the trip. and i was wondering what else could go wrong.
when you're on hold, your business is on hold. that's why comcast business doesn't leave you there. when you call, a small business expert will answer you in about 30 seconds. no annoying hold music. just a real person, real fast. whenever you need them. so your business can get back to business. sounds like my ride's ready. don't get stuck on hold. reach an expert fast. comcast business. built for business. the next day i had to report for duty at the hospital. i felt a mixture of both excitement and fear because i didn't -- i didn't know what to expect.
we were led to this room in the hr department. so the assistant director of nursing told us the do's and don'ts when dealing with saudi patients. we were told that regarding saudi men, we couldn't touch their beards. me being a male nurse, i wasn't allowed to see any female patient's face. she said that there are cameras in the er. and we had to ensure that our conduct was appropriate. >> thank you for your attention. >> just thought god, big brother is watching you. two days later i was in the er department, and one of the male
nurses walked up. and he was extremely, extremely camp. and he -- he just said welcome to hell in a very flamboyant way. and he was stroking my hand. and i was bloody terrified because, you know, the cameras, they're everywhere. i said to him, can i have my hand back, and i had to pull my hand free of his. and then another nurse said that's tom. he's a gay. and i just thought how does he get away with it in saudi arabia where being homosexual is a crime. we had spent three weeks there. there was hardly any west nurses in their hospital. you're confined to this apartment, and you're basic going from there to work. so there wasn't a lot to do. i was bored.
one day gemma told me at work that we had been invited to a party at the palace. >> that's crazy. >> and i thought, well, this is brilliant. a party, our first party inside saudi arabia. and then we got there. and it was just -- it was surreal. we were led down into like a basement, but it wasn't a basement. it was like a nightclub. this saudi man came over. >> hi. >> he asked us what we would
like to drink. he gave us a choice. and it was real alcohol. i asked him who he was, and he told me that he was a prince and that this was his palace. >> cheers. >> then we were offered drugs. i just couldn't believe there was drugs, there was alcohol. you could see obviously gay men kissing, dancing with each other. there was one who had a handbag, and he was acting outrageous on the dance floor, very camp, dancing wildly. i just couldn't believe it. i think it was a turning point because, you know, i started seeing what really went on. didn't expect that. i put all doubts of arrest for being a homosexual completely at the back of my mind. and that's when my caution started to slip. after being at that party, i did have a hangover, and i was
thinking about the party last night and just thinking you know what? they're doing it. so why not me? i was lonely. i was stuck in this apartment. and i think everybody needs some human touch. so i decided that i did want to meet somebody. and i didn't really know how to go about it. i wondered were there specific websites for gay arab men, you know, within saudi arabia. i knew the saudi government monitored the internet. i just thought how am i going to do it? >> hey, bill, what's with the beautiful bikini babes? >> and then i met bill, and that changed everything.
>> research. i'm doing research. >> bill was one of the nurses who i worked with. one day i went to his apartment, and bill told me that he had a program that's called a vpn, which is a virtual protected network. >> get around the saudis. >> and stops the government from eavesdropping and every form of communication. >> you can access any website? >> yeah. >> and i asked him if he had a copy of it. and he did. and it was in disc. so he gave it to me. >> cheers. >> okay. >> i hadn't been with anyone for eight months. that's what i wanted, to be intimate with somebody. you know, and have that connection with somebody. so i threw caution to the wind. (cell phone rings) where are you? well the squirrels are back in the attic. mom?
your dad won't call an exterminator... can i call you back, mom? he says it's personal this time... if you're a mom, you call at the worst time. it's what you do. if you want to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance, you switch to geico. it's what you do. where are you? it's very loud there. are you taking a zumba class?
came up. i was completely flabbergasted. i thought this is great. and then i got one message that particularly stood out. he was a very handsome guy. he was from one of the middle east countries. he was around 26. i finded him straight away. so we started to chat. >> hi. >> he came on. he appeared and he gave me a big wave, and he was gorgeous. i was smiling, you know. i was just smiling. when i seen him. he just said he would really
like to meet me, and would i be up for meeting him? >> when? >> today. >> today. i was really nervous. i hope this is okay and we're safe. and i just thought why not? and i said to him yeah. >> okay. >> come around here. i opened the door for him, and there he was standing there. i fell in love with him immediately. so i did. everything just went out the window, the whole rules and regulations. homosexuality is punishable by death. completely disappeared. my life was very transformed
when i met fred. he made, you know, he made my life more bearable there. i had somebody who loved me. it was love more than lust. and it made it more than sex. i was very caught up in the moment. we started to go out more. i did start to forget about the danger of having a gay relationship. fred knew the laws, but he just thought they were ridiculous. fred was quite reckless. i don't think he had a sense of a danger. one day he leaned over and tried to kiss me. i was frightened. because i was frightened somebody would see us. >> there is people here. >> it's fine. >> then i heard something else that made me realize how risky it was to be gay. i had seen these men, and i said
to tom, who are they? and he told me that that was the mutaween, religious police. and he said they enforce all the religious laws in saudi arabia. they patrol the streets. he said they are dangerous. and he told me about a young filipino guy who had been walking along the street, and the mutaween had stopped him. they assumed he was a homosexual, so raped him. >> took him and raped him. can you believe that? >> then he offered me some advice about living the whole gay lifestyle in saudi arabia, the do's and the don'ts.
he said, you know, if you have got anything on your phone, make sure you delete it in case the religious police stop you and they ask to see your phone. the golden rule is not to date the saudis, not to date the locals, because it's dangerous. he says if you upset them, they could go to the religious police and report you, and you would be in serious trouble. i thought, you know, i won't be doing that anyway, you know. i've got fred anyway. and i won't be doing that. fred and i went out for about five months, and then i decided to end the relationship. he was really upset, and i was really upset about it as well. >> i'm so sorry, fred. fred? >> i just felt that he was too
young and he needed to have more life experience. it was devastating because i was still madly in love with him. i still love him now. and so, yeah, it was a hard decision to make. i was dreading christmas in saudi arabia. i really was, because everybody is at home. you're there. they don't celebrate it. fred's not about. i was miserable. i -- i skyped my kids. >> hi, guys! >> you know, it was great that i could actually see them opening their presents on camera, you know. >> wow! >> and they were bringing them up to the screen and showing me them. >> thank you, daddy! >> it was great to see. but you know what?
it was quite miserable at the same time because i wasn't there with them, you know. and i wish that i could be. >> bye. i love you. goodbye. >> i decided to go back on the dating site because i just wanted some contact with somebody. whether it be for sex or just meet for coffee. i didn't really care at that stage. i was putting myself back into this sort of gay world on the internet in a country that, you know, it was illegal, but i didn't care. and i thought, well, i mean, i can get away with it again. then i received a message from a
guy, abdullah. he was asking me where i was from, how long i had been in saudi arabia. i -- i remembered tom and his rule about not dating any saudis or meeting any saudis. but i felt that he had lived in the uk. he was educated. so then i just thought, well, you know, it should be safe enough. it should be okay. >> oh, hey. >> hi. >> he was a typical saudi man. i wouldn't say i was overly taken by him, you know, the way i had been with fred. but i just wanted to go and meet somebody and talk to them and, you know, i was really lonely. if i had known then what i know now, i would never have done it.
i met him the next day. we went to the coffee shop. he was very westernized. he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. >> how do you do? nice to meet you. have a seat. >> he spoke about how he wanted to leave saudi arabia and live in the west, that you had a much better life there. he could be who he was. so, you know, from that i didn't feel that i was in any danger whatsoever from him. after coffee, we went back to my compound. had sex, and he left after two hours. i was never going to have a relationship with him, you know. i didn't want a relationship with him.
and, you know, i actually hoped that he didn't want to see me again, because i thought, you know, he is a saudi. i was quite worried about it, because it all came back to me what tom had said to me. the golden rule is not to date the saudis. it's dangerous. by this time, i had been in saudi for nearly a year. i had achieved what i had set out to do. i had paid off my debt, and i also had saved some money. so i just wanted to get home. i just wanted to go home to my kids and back to a normal life. one day i got a text message from abdullah completely out of the blue. i hadn't heard from him for months. the text message said hi. do you want to meet for coffee tonight? do you have any alcohol? i did wonder why he was asking that, you know, why i had the
alcohol. i just -- i actually thought that's quite strange that he is asking that. he was quite western, and, you know, the first time i met him, he did go to parties as well, and he did drink. i didn't really suspect that there was anything sinister about it. i said that i would meet him in an hour at the place i had first met him for coffee. >> i'll see you later. bye. >> i had no idea why i made that decision. i suppose in my mind i was thinking that probably we could end up in bed together. i knew him. i had met him before. so i didn't feel that i was going into a situation that was dangerous or that i felt wasn't safe. how wrong could i be?
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top stories. an interview with sean penn led to the capture of drug kingpin el chapo. lottery officials say there were no winning tickets sold for saturday night's historic power ballotry jackpot. that means it will be over $1 billion for the drawing on wednesday. now it's back to "locked up abroad." i walked down the side street because i wanted to take a shortcut to the coffee shop where i had met him before. and i was looking forward to catching up with him. turned the corner and all of the sudden i just thought oh god,
what's happening? there was men running towards me. >> no! >> everything went through my mind. am i going to be robbed? am i going to be raped? one of them kicked me in the back. i got up, punched one of them. one of them punched me in the back of the head and i fell. then started to strangle me. he kept on putting pressure on it. he was going to kill me. he was going to strangle me. and i was starting to lose consciousness. and then one of them told them to stop. and he let go of me. they were all around me, in my
pockets, taking my phone out and my wallet. one of them said that i was a homosexual. he shouted, you are a prostitute. you have been selling alcohol. you have been selling drugs. i was very dazed and confuse and i just thought why are they doing this? why are they saying this to me? he then brought out this phone and he showed me the text messages i sent to abdula. at the end of the text message, there was a kiss. i was in shock. i think i had been set up. was it abdullah who had done it? had they got his phone? i realized i was in serious trouble. and then they dragged me along the road. and i seen their emblem on the jeep which stated that it was the religious police. i realized that my worst fears had come true. i was being arrested for being homosexual. i was going to be put in jail or
could face execution. i was terrified. i was led into the police station. the peace officer told me to go in, and everybody just turned and stared at me. i'm the only westerner in there. i just couldn't believe that i was in this situation. two of the prisoners spoke english, and they asked me where i was from. >> why are you here? >> i don't know. >> i didn't tell them that i had been arrested for being a homosexual because i just thought that's going to make things worse. in the early morning time, i was taken out of the cell.
a policeman took me to this office up the corridor. there was a saudi man sitting behind the desk. he started to interrogate me. he turned around and said to me -- >> are you a homosexual? >> i just thought i'm not going to admit to it because this is serious now. >> no. >> he said we think that you're telling lies and that you are a liar. you are a homosexual. >> i am not a homosexual. the guy who was sitting, he finished writing.
it was all in arabic. they asked me to sign it. and i said i'm not going to sign it. you could be writing anything. so i'm not going to sign it. >> you will sign here! >> and they started to get quite rough. >> now! >> you will sign it. i just thought, you know, i just need to do what they're telling me to do or else i'm just going make it worse for myself. so i signed it. it wasn't even a signature. it was my thumbprint. when i was being led away, i just was thinking i've just signed something there that could have said that yes, i am a homosexual, yes, i've been
selling drugs, yes, i'm a prostitute. i had no idea what they had written. i did start to cry, because i just thought, you know, that's it. i've signed my life away. i was thinking of my kids. i thought i would never see them again. what was going to happen to me, what if i was executed. it was just unbelievable fear.
so i was what? they're going release me? i just couldn't believe it. he said in broken english that you can just go home. and i couldn't believe it that i was being released. it was -- oh, this is great. because i had went from thinking this is it, you know, my life is over, i'm going to be executed to suddenly being released. i can leave. i can just go home. and i was very wrong. it wasn't over. i came in. i went straight to my computer, and i just deleted everything that i thought could incriminate
me. my browsing history, i deleted it. i deleted pictures. i just deleted everything because i just thought they could come back here. you know, i just didn't know what case they had against me. maybe they had been watching me when i was with fred. i was thinking of every possible scenario that i had been quite reckless. >> hello? >> that night my phone rang and it was my wife, and she was hysterical. she said i -- i've had a reporter from one of the national newspapers has called me and he has told me that you were arrested and that you're going to be executed for being gay. >> what? no, no, no. >> i knew that i had to get out of saudi arabia really quickly. >> but how do i get out of here? they have my passport. >> my friends were really worried about me. and they feared that i could possibly be executed or taken back to jail. one of them, she said to me, you know what?
i think that we need to get you out. in saudi arabia, you just can't leave the country. you have to surrender our passports when we went to the hospital. and i said but how do i get out of here? i don't have my passport. they won't let me leave. and she gave me two options. it was either to smuggle me across the red sea into egypt or to smuggle me across the border into one of the countries in the united arab emirates. i was thinking about these escape plans, but i didn't think that they were quite safe. i remembered that there was a policy in the hospital that if a relative was critically ill, that they had to send you home. so i phoned my sister. >> marie? hello, it's steve. >> and i got her to fax a letter stating that my mom was seriously ill and that i was required to come home.
>> i really need you to help me now. >> it was a lie that i was telling, but it was my only hope of getting out. so the next day i went straight up to the hospital to see the government relation officer to request my passport and to request an exit visa. i handed the letter over to mr. abdula. i was really nervous. and i was thinking, this will surely work. this will surely work, because my mother was dying. mr. abdula didn't like me. every time that i spoke to him, he had a look of disdain on his face. and he -- he just read it. there was no change of expression in his face. and he says, you're not going home.
>> what? >> and i said but why am i not going home? i says, my mom is seriously ill. i says, she might die and i need to go home to see her. why won't you let me go home? and he said -- >> there is a case against you. >> i'm not letting you go. he said to me if i wanted to leave saudi arabia, i would need to get a police check. how do i get it? you need to go to the police station and get a letter stating that you don't have any criminal record here. okay. i did say to him, if i get the police check, will you let me go home? and he said, yes, i will let you go home. i had no other choice but to go get the police check to confirm is there a case against me or is there not?
they asked me my name, where i was working. and then they fingerprinted me again. i didn't realize they were going to take my fingerprints. actually, i didn't know that. so when i asked them, why do i have to get my fingerprints taken? they said, we need to check if you have been arrested before. >> you are criminal or not. okay? >> okay. and i was -- i was thinking, well, i have been arrested. so obviously it's going to show that, you know, i have been arrested. and i just thought, well, this is not going to work. >> okay. >> and then they told me to come back in ten days. ten days? >> yes. >> ten days of sheer hell and waiting. i thought about not going to the
police station to collect it. i go back there, they will probably rearrest me. i was very, very paranoid, and had really bad panic attacks. i was terrified, especially at night. checking the windows constantly to make sure they were locked. constantly checking the door to make sure it was locked. i just had this recurring thought that they were going to bust in through my door, drag me out again, and take me back to prison. i was terrified. so after ten days, i just decided that i had to find out. there was a guy. he was sitting at the desk. and there was a bunch of -- looked like files. excuse me. and i handed him the receipt. he's going through, you know, the pile on the desk.
it seemed he was there for ages looking for it. i was -- i was terrified. you know, my heart was beating out of my chest. you know, i was sweating. i was so nervous. i mean, it seemed ages. it probably wasn't. but for me, it was just -- it seemed like a lifetime that he was searching for it. the man pulled this document out, this letter, and handed it to me. i looked at it, and it was all in arabic. i don't understand. do i have criminal record? and he turned around and he just said -- >> no criminal record. >> no, you don't. no record? >> no. okay?
>> and i was just -- i was absolutely delighted. i just couldn't believe it. thank you. i practically danced out of the building. it was great, you know, because i thought, this is it, i'm going home. on the day that i was leaving, one of the hospital workers came and picked me up. he handed me my passport, and i just kept on looking at it. i checked it inside, turned it around, and kept on -- kept on
looking at it. i was just thinking, i will never come back here ever again. never. i just had enough of it. i just wanted to go home to my family, to my kids, and just get out of there. >> as soon as i got home, i -- i see my kids. and it was great to see them. they ran out to me. >> daddy! >> it was great to see them again. because i just -- i didn't think that i would ever see them again. i honestly didn't think that i would see them. i said, i'll never go away again for a long, long time. i just said, i'm not going anywhere. i'm going to be staying right here. be free. with my kids running towards me, it was a fantastic feeling.