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Sultan Jamal… From Riyadh to Bondi

By James Hutton on February 19, 2020 in People

On January 20 an email arrived in my inbox. “My name is Sultan Jamal,” the message began, “I am a Saudi print journalist and TV producer that just moved to Bondi Beach.” It went on, “My partner and I left Saudi Arabia after being targeted by the authorities for our work with the foreign media and for being gay. We arrived in Australia to seek asylum, had our tourist visas cancelled at the airport, then were promptly arrested and sent to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.” I met Sultan the following morning…

How are you this morning Sultan? I’m good. We woke up in Bondi, just went out, down to the street. Life is happening and there’s cafes, there’s people mixing, there’s music, there’s birds chirping. It smells like the sea. It’s just gorgeous. Over the last couple of days we’ve had these… they look like parrots. You know, those birds that are so colourful.
Rainbow lorikeets? Yeah, there you go, lorikeets, exactly. A day before yesterday I woke up and I was out on the balcony and two of them just landed on the balcony, so I put out some bread and some water. They came and they let me get close, they let me touch them and stuff. It was really cool. Then the next day, I put out some water and bread and I just whistled and they came right back. It was such a great experience. They’re so colourful and they have no fear of human beings. Birds, cats, dogs in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the Middle East, they’re terrified of people. It’s a testament to the kindness of the people here because people here don’t hurt these birds, so they’ve kind of gotten accustomed to people, and this is just the spirit of Australia. Everybody’s just so good.
You guys are living in Bondi? Yeah, we’re a five-minute walk from the beach, literally just down the street.
What are the biggest differences that you notice between Saudi Arabia and life in Bondi, or Australia more generally? A lot of differences, major differences. First of all, we don’t live in fear here. In Saudi Arabia we were constantly worried that the authorities would break down our door in the middle of the night and walk in and find us both in bed, just sleeping, and we would get carted away. That’s the fear that we’ve had to live with for 16 years since we’ve been together. But what are the major differences? People are just easy going here. You’re walking down the street, somebody says hello. Another thing, crossing the street, when you arrive at the crosswalk – even before you arrive at the crosswalk – people actually stop. People are very welcoming and so relaxed. That’s what I like about it. It’s such a beachy environment too. Everybody’s young, everybody’s great looking – men and women. It’s just a fantastic place. There’s a lot of cafes and little restaurants and it feels like a community.
We had just been released from Villawood and we were walking down Glenayr Avenue, because we were staying at a friend’s place there. It was hot and we felt like a beer – that’s another thing we can’t get over there. We saw this hamburger joint called Bondi Tony’s and I noticed that he had beer taps in the window. It looked open, so I went up to him and I was like, “Hey, can we get a couple of beers please?” He’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m closed.” I’m like, “Okay, well do you know where we can get a couple of beers around here?” We were new to Bondi and beer is everywhere, you know. So he’s like, “Oh, why don’t you just come in and have a couple of beers on me?” And that was very kind and that was just… you just don’t get that in parts of the Middle East. People tend to be a lot more reserved there, so it was very welcoming. I mean, it’s just a couple of beers, but the whole gesture…
I’m glad you met him so early in the piece… It was actually him that really made us want to stay in Bondi. It was that gesture. We went back later and he wasn’t there, so we wrote him a little note saying, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know how much this gesture meant to us. I know It’s just a couple of beers, but it embodied everything that we hoped Australia would be.”
The one thing that really sticks out is everybody who hears our story, they tell us, “Please let us know if there’s anything you need, anything you need at all.” Everybody’s just been so welcoming.
We feel privileged being able to live around here and maybe feel a duty to help those who need a hand. It’s been really evident lately with the response to the bushfires… Indeed, and the fires are such a tragedy. I mean, a billion animals and so many people dead. Hundreds of homes destroyed. We don’t get that back home. I grew up in California for a bit and you get fires there, but nothing like this.
This has never happened before… Australia tends to keep out of the news pretty much, but this was all over the world. Even back in Saudi people are very upset about it.
You were born and raised in Saudi Arabia? No, Nassar was. I was born in Cairo because my mum’s Egyptian. I stayed there until I was nine and then my dad got a scholarship to study in California from the Saudi government, so he took me with him.
Your father was from Saudi and your mum was from Egypt? Yeah, and Saudi Arabia at the time was having scholarships for students, usually for connected students – it wasn’t for everybody like it is now. My dad was lucky to get a scholarship when I was nine years old and he took me with him to the San Francisco Bay area. I stayed there until I was 14 and then my dad decided he wanted to buy a boat and sail to Australia. He arrived in Cairns and it was his favourite place in the world. He’s been to all these places and he said that Australia was a lot like America, but with much better people. That always stuck in my mind.
At that point I was sent to boarding school in the UK, where I stayed from 14 to 18 years old. I did economics, politics, computer science and A levels. At 18 I went back to Saudi. That was the first time I really went to live there. I stayed there from 18 years old to 20 and then I decided to go back to the States. I went to the same college that my dad went to in California and ended up staying there until I was 30. Saudis were given five-year visas at the time, multiple entry, so I just decided to stay from the time I was 18 to 30 in the US. Then 9/11 happened and it was time to come back.
That must have been a crazy time… Well, yeah, especially as a Saudi, it was a bit rough. Immediately I saw people switch how they would look at us, look at me. People were always friendly and then right after that everybody was suspicious. I remember flying a couple of weeks after that and the way people would look at me on the plane, it was very uncomfortable. My parents told me, “It’s time to come back.” I don’t really want to get into what happened to me over there, but let’s just say I had a bad experience and it was time to leave.
I’d lost my passport and I couldn’t go back to Saudi, because in Saudi Arabia if you lose your passport they make you stay there for six months as a punitive thing. I didn’t want to do that because I was in a relationship with somebody for seven years, so I decided to stay. At the time there’s thousands of people that had overstayed, but because 9/11 was done by these student pilots from Saudi Arabia – 15 out of the 19 – the FBI and the immigration people and all the federal government started looking for Saudis. I was never formally charged with anything – no serious crimes, no violent crimes, nothing at all.
You weren’t in Guantanamo were you? No, but I was threatened with it. People were telling me, “You might end up in Guantanamo.” That was just awful to hear.
You hear all these conspiracy theories about the Saudi government being involved in 9/11, is there any truth to that? Absolutely impossible. It’s absolutely impossible. Saudi Arabia, as a government, would have nothing to gain. In fact, we’d have everything to lose. There were so many Saudis that had millions of dollars – hundreds of millions – invested in the US. America was our number one ally. At the time, they were protecting the Kingdom. Back in 1991 when the first Gulf War started, America came and they sent troops and they protected us.
Saudi Arabia wanted America to go in and deal with Saddam Hussein while the rest of the Arab World wanted an Arab response to the crisis? The invasion of Kuwait was just totally wrong. So many people were killed and raped, it was just a terrible, terrible thing. There was a concern that the Iraqi regime, Saddam Hussein’s people, would actually come in and try to invade Saudi Arabia as well, so the US were very quick to come and send thousands of troops to the country. Saudi Arabia would have had a lot to lose with the government being involved. Now, in my opinion, when we hear about these cases where the embassy sent money to these hijackers, it had nothing to do with terrorism, because I, as a Saudi outside the country, if I have a problem or I need money or any kind of support, I go to the embassy and I say, “Hey, I need money,” and they give you money.
So that’s the little bit of truth that fed that story? It is, exactly. I mean, there was the 9/11 Commission and there was all these separate investigations that were done after 9/11 and nothing ever was found that proved that the Saudi government did that. There’s nothing for us to gain, absolutely nothing to gain.
Why did those terrorists attack the Twin Towers? It depends who you ask. The conspiracy theorists will tell you that this was something that was done to get America into other wars and so on, but let’s keep away from the conspiracy theories.
America just goes to war whenever it likes, it’s not as if it needs any justification… Exactly. War is an industry, a lucrative industry. It creates jobs, weapon sales, all kinds of things. 9/11 really changed the world, and it changed my world as well.
Is there a general animosity towards the West and America in the Middle East? Among the people, generally no – just normal everyday people, no. If you go to Saudi Arabia, you’ll find that the people there are very, very welcoming, very hospitable indeed.
Even if you’re American? Just if you’re generally foreign. Our culture is one where it’s dictated that you have to be good to your guests. If somebody shows up at your door, a foreigner, and he’s got nowhere to stay, you have to let him in your house and stay there for three days – that’s prescribed in the Hadith and the Koran about being hospitable and being generous with others, especially foreigners.
Is Australia’s foreign policy of following America into all of these stupid, pointless wars a smart long-term strategy for our country? Well, that’s what Saudi Arabia does too. We look after the US interest and the US looks after our interests. Australia, the way that it’s viewed from Saudi Arabia, is it’s one of those countries that just doesn’t get involved. I mean, your true presence, fighting ISIS, for example, is quite minimal compared to other countries that are fighting that war. Australia tends to not get too involved, but just involved enough where its interests are also protected. The impression of Australia and Australians is we just don’t think about it because it’s just not so much in the news.
Barbecues, beaches, koalas, kangaroos… Exactly. What did I know about Australia before coming here? Steve Irwin, kangaroos, koalas, Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan… We don’t hear much about Australian politics. I couldn’t even tell you who the prime minister was before I came here. Australia’s smart by not getting involved.
After that period in America surrounding 9/11, were you then deported back to Saudi Arabia? To Riyadh, yes, and they were real bastards about the way they did it. Instead of going from San Francisco to New York, New York to London, London to Jeddah, which is the usual route, they flew west. We left from California and we landed in Thailand, Bangkok, Manila… Being deported was a bitch because you’re handcuffed until they put you on the plane, and once you’re on the plane the stewardesses come and tell you, “Don’t move. If you want to go anywhere on the plane, you let us know.” When you arrive at the transit point, like Bangkok or Manila, you’re held at the airport jail cell until the next flight. The whole being imprisoned thing continued until I got on a Saudi Airlines flight, and that was for the last leg, Bangkok to Riyadh.
And then you just walk off the plane and everything’s normal… Yeah, we just walked out, although they sent me to Riyadh and my family is not from Riyadh. I had $2 in my pocket. I arrived in Riyadh, it was 11 o’clock at night and I didn’t have a mobile phone, I didn’t have anything. Fortunately I remembered my aunt’s phone number, she has a house in Riyadh. The housekeeper was there so I took a taxi, went to the house and took the first good hot shower I’d taken in a while. The next day I flew to Jeddah, where my family’s from, and my grandfather met me at the airport. Then my dad flew from Cairo and it was just like starting all over again. It was the first time I really had to do that.
An emotional time? It was. I had a boyfriend I was with for seven years. Understand the situation, imagine you’re walking out of your house right now, you’re going to the grocery store or going to go buy something – I was going to go buy a printer – and you’re never able to come back. While you’re at the stationery store, you get pounced on. Suddenly you get arrested without explanation and you never see your house, you never see your surfboards, you never see your cat. It sucked because I was in a relationship with somebody for seven years, we had two cars, we had a house in Las Vegas, and everything was just suddenly taken from you and you end up basically disappearing for nearly a year.
Then that bastard boyfriend I was with for seven years, he only came to visit me once. It sucked in every possible way. Going from my house, to the stationery store, into detention, then being deported and sent back to Riyadh was a big shock. I spent five and a half months in solitary. Literally, you’d go months without shaking anybody’s hand. You’re shackled anytime they take you out. When they bring you back, you’re strip searched completely naked and they made you bend over and spread your cheeks and they would take a look up your butt, and that’s every time you go out of your room and are brought back. That was a horrific experience.
But it did not represent the American people, it was just their immigration system and their federal system. America was in shock and reeling from what had just happened – it was the most disgusting and largest terrorist attack that ever happened in human history – so I understand the animosity, I understand the worry. I just don’t think it’s right to take people off the street and throw them in solitary confinement.
No, of course not… So that led to me going back to Saudi Arabia at the age of 30. I arrived there, I barely spoke Arabic, and I thought to myself, “Well, shit, what am I going to do with myself now?” I had a distant relative that was the editor-in-chief of Arab News, so my aunt said, “Why don’t you go talk to him?” I went and met with him and he gave me an assignment about Filipinos cleaning up the beach and I finally found out that I could actually write.
I continued on with them and then they sent me off to cover the war in Iraq. I started in Southern Iraq, crossed the border illegally, twice from Kuwait to Iraq. I went through Basra, Najaf, all the way up to Baghdad. I ended up staying there for a month. I did some really good reporting, I must say. Then I came back to Saudi and started doing investigative journalism, dressing up as a beggar in a wheelchair to see how much money these guys make, driving taxis… just really experiencing the story. I actually like to get into it and try to do things myself.
How did you come to find yourself in a sticky situation with the Saudi government? The authorities? Well for 16 years, since 2003, 2004, I’ve been working with the foreign media. I’ve always admired Nic Robertson who works for CNN – he’s a reporter and he covers wars all over the world. I’ve always admired this guy and really wanted to meet him. We used to see him on TV and I told Nassar, “I have to meet this guy one day, I really want to meet this guy.”
One day I switched on CNN and I see he’s in Jeddah and he’s doing a TV report there. I figured out from the background where he was exactly and I just got in the car and rushed over there and I happened to catch him. I was like, “Hey, my name’s Sultan, I’m a reporter. I work with Arab News. If there’s anything you need at all, please let me know.” He was like, “Well, I actually need a fixer. I need somebody who knows the local culture or the interesting people to talk to, how to get things done. Do you want to help me out for a few days?” I was like, “Okay!” I helped him out for three days, setting up interviews for him and he paid me $1,000 for three days work. He said to me, “You’re good, I’m going to pass on your phone number to my friends at CNN and BBC,” and he did. People from CNN, when they would come to Saudi, they’d call me and then the BBC would call me and then ITN would call me, National Geographic, The Oprah Winfrey Show, they called me as well. That’s how I got into fixing, which is basically your field producer facilitating things for major news networks. It was quite lucrative because there was a lot of interest in Saudi Arabia ever since 9/11, even up to the present day.
I became the go-to guy in Saudi Arabia for the foreign media. Along the way, I had to learn where the red lines are – what you can do, what you can’t do with the foreign media – because the government’s always watching. Any kind of story or incident that makes Saudi Arabia look bad or exposes things can land you in trouble – it can land you in jail. From 2003 up until about 2016, 2017, I knew where the red lines were. You do not insult the Royal Family, you do not attack any prince directly in the media, you do not attack the religious establishment, and pretty much that’s it. The rules were pretty clear cut. I managed to work with the foreign media producing hundreds of reports over the years, up until about 2017 when King Salman came into power and Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) came into power as well. They created the Presidency of State Security, which is a whole new enforcement arm for the government, and this branch of enforcement was above the Ministry of the Interior. In fact, it was above all the other security branches that I had to deal with along the way when working with journalists. Suddenly the rules changed.
Canadian television came, a reporter named Marie-Eve Bedard, she came to Saudi Arabia. She told me she wanted to do a story about all the changes that are going on there. The Crown Prince had said that in a few months he’s going to allow women to drive, there was a creation of the General Entertainment Authority, a lot of good things were happening in the Kingdom, positive changes. A lot of the corrupt people – corrupt politicians, corrupt princes, people that were milking Saudi Arabia for billions and billions of dollars – were suddenly being arrested and they were being forced to pay back the money that was taken from just people. It was a good thing and we were happy about it.
I was working at the time at the Ministry of Media as an advisor to the minister when it comes to foreign media matters. Canadian TV approached me, they wanted to come. They’d been trying to get a visa for nine months to come to Saudi Arabia and, because I was head of media, I decided to grant a visa to Maria-Eve Bedard and her team to come to the kingdom and report on all the positive changes that were happening. While she was there I got a sense that she was sniffing around human rights abuses, which is fair enough – I mean, that’s what reporters do.
She should have told you though… She should have, but she didn’t. I told her, “Look, Marie-Eve, you can do the story. There’s a lot of Saudis that have left Saudi Arabia, they can tell you about the human rights abuses, but don’t do any interviews here. If you do interviews here, you’re probably being watched. If these people are well known, they’re probably being watched too and it’s just not going to end well for people.” Well, she went to Jeddah without me knowing and did interviews with a couple of dissidents. One of them is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger and a journalist that was sentenced to ten years in prison.
She was the one who was speaking out against all the oppression of women? He was, her brother was. And then after he was arrested, Samar Badawi, his sister, started being outspoken as well. She was arrested, held in jail for about a month and then released.
Raif Badawi is still in jail? Yeah, he is. So, Marie-Eve went and spoke to Samar Badawi and she also went and spoke to somebody named Zuhair Kutbi, another writer. He had been in jail for about a year for writing some things about wanting change in the Kingdom and so on. He alleges that he was tortured and beaten and so on. When he got out, he got the medical reports and he joined a network of Saudi Liberals, they’re called, and they started releasing information, leaking documents out to the world. Marie-Eve Bedard had heard about him and then given him a call and she met him at a cafe – him and his wife with her camera man and a local fixer. I didn’t know about any of this. She finished her interview, she left the country and then suddenly Zuhair Kutbi and Samar Badawi get arrested. As soon as Samar Badawi got arrested, Canada got really, really upset and the ambassador – the Canadian Ambassador in Saudi – put out a tweet about Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses.
Right after that, about a month, I was called in. The Presidency of State Security called me on a Thursday and told me, “Can you come in on Sunday? We want to talk to you.” I thought it was about flying a drone, because drones were illegal at the time and I’d been flying one at the moment they called. I went in on Sunday. We arrived outside the prison. Nassar went with me. He parked outside, waiting to see what would happen. A white van pulled into the parking lot… They took my phone, they scanned me with the metal wand and put me and three other people into this van. It was completely blacked out with some kind of thick black tarp material so you couldn’t see out of it. Then the van drove from the parking lot into the prison grounds and we were taken to a porta-cabin kind of thing.
There was a little waiting room where we all sat. I was the first one called in. There’s a room with a desk and a chair, and another chair on the other side of the desk, and there was a camera on the ceiling, in the corner. I looked at the camera and I saw that it was pointing up. I found that very disconcerting because they could do anything to you and it wouldn’t be recorded.
The interrogator, he comes in, he sits down and he’s dressed in civilian clothes and he’s like, “Do you know why you’re here?” I’m like, “I have no idea why I’m here,” and he’s like, “How do you feel about Canada? What do you think of Canada?” Canada? It was the last thing I expected. I was like, “I don’t think about Canada. I don’t really have an opinion about Canada.” He’s like, “Well, have you had any dealings with any Canadians lately?” I’m thinking, I’m thinking. I was like, “Yeah, there was a team from Canadian television that came.” He’s like, “What happened?” I told them my involvement, which was giving her a visa, allowing her to come to the Kingdom, setting up various interviews and facilitating things for them on the ground. He said, “Why did you set up the interviews with Samar Badawi and Zuahir Kutbi?” I was like, “What? I didn’t set up those interviews,” and he was like, “Oh, they met and Zuhair gave Marie-Eve documents that were supposed to be given to Jamal Khashoggi,” and this was before he was killed. Documents were given to her that she was supposed to give to Al Jazeera. They knew everything about the meeting. So I said, “I had nothing to do with that. I had absolutely nothing to do with that at all,” but he was like, “Look, you need to stop working with the foreign media.” I said, “This is my job, this is what I do, this is what I was hired by the minister himself to do.” His response was, “Well, it’s got to stop.”
That was the point where I got the sense that these guys are more powerful even than the minister. Then the questioning took a very odd turn. “So, are you married?” “No.” “Do you have any kids?” “No.” “How old are you?” At the time I was 45 or 46. Then he said, “Well, who do you live with?” I’m like, “I live with Nassar,” and he’s like, “Is he married?” “No.” “Does he have any kids?” “No.” “How many rooms do you have in your house? How many beds do you have in your house?” I knew where he was going with this. He was making it very obvious to me that they knew.
Before they called me in, they had been following me around. They had come into the Ministry and asked loads of questions about what happened. How were these people given visas? How were they able to meet these dissidents? It was just very, very uncomfortable and he told me, “It’s obvious that you guys are more than just friends and you are keeping it a secret. And you know secrets don’t always have to stay secrets. So you need to stop working with the foreign media.” He was basically telling me that if I didn’t stop working for the foreign media they were going to tell everybody about our secret.
And that’s the worst thing in the world over there, to be gay? Yeah, yeah it is.
Didn’t your family and friends already know though? The Saudi side of my family doesn’t know. The Egyptian side of the family knows.
The Saudi side still doesn’t know? The Saudi side still doesn’t know.
How could they not know though? Well, generally I tend to avoid the family. Remember I grew up outside of Saudi Arabia, so the Saudi side of the family, I never really had much interaction with them. My dad was like one of those macho tough guys, you know, so I’d never acted effeminate, I’d never acted gay. I was able to kind of hide it all these years.
My ‘gaydar’ isn’t particularly strong, but I wouldn’t have known that you were gay if you hadn’t told me… And that’s me relaxed in Australia, you should see us back home in Saudi! We were able to keep a secret for a long, long time. Immediately after that interview, by about a week or two, I was removed from my role being in charged of the foreign media. I had gone from being in charge of foreign media coming to Saudi Arabia, to becoming the assistant cameraman and assistant video editor to Nassar, who was working there as well.
You guys were together at that time… Yeah, we’ve been together for 16 years. All this stuff I’m telling you now, it happened in early 2018. When I left the Presidency of State Security, after they let me go that day and I went back to work, it became obvious that something had happened and I was being sidelined. I was demoted and my salary started getting delayed. I was making very good money but suddenly that was gone. My salary started getting delayed by a month, two months, three months, and because it was getting delayed and I was being pushed out, eventually I had to leave working for the Ministry and was kind of destitute. What am I going to do for money? I had to continue fixing, because there were so many changes going on in the Kingdom that people were constantly coming.
I ended up doing a series of about 12 films for Vice Documentaries, assisting them, and apparently that upset the authorities because they made good on this threat to out us. Around the second or third week of August, Nassar’s mum called him. “We got information that your relationship with Sultan is one that does not please God, you need to stop seeing him,” she said. He told her, “No, I’m not going to stop seeing him.”
People take their religion pretty seriously over there? Oh yeah, oh yeah. So then his brother called in the last week of August and told him, “You need to stop seeing Sultan,” but Nassar said no. His brother put pressure on Nassar and he broke down and said, “Look, I love him, I’m not leaving him,” at which point he told him, “Look, you need to watch out for the cousins because they’re coming after you guys. What you’re doing is bringing shame to the tribe.” His tribe is very, very well known in Saudi.
So your own cousins, your own family, would come and kill you? Oh, yeah. Not my family, his.
Just because you’re gay… Yeah, I mean, his family are ultra conservative, very Islamist. The fact that we were able to have a relationship for 16 years was actually quite miraculous. I mean, that we were able to do it and get away with it for so long. But we constantly have to live with the stress of just hiding it, not being able to be true to ourselves. Like I said, we used to be afraid that people would come in the middle of the night. We bought a German shepherd just to give us an alert if something was happening.
How old were you guys when you knew that you were gay? I knew I was gay I think when I was eight or nine. I knew that something wasn’t right. I remember being a little scared and saying, “God, what is this? Please change it. This is not good.” But it didn’t change, that prayer wasn’t answered.
The same percentage of the population would be gay anywhere in the world, wouldn’t it? They say it’s 10 per cent.
So what do all the gay people do in Saudi Arabia? Just live double lives with wives and kids and pretend to be happy families? Because in Saudi Arabia there’s the separation of sexes, men and women are not allowed to get together unless they’re directly related – blood related – to one another. Nassar’s brother recently got married and he’s not even allowed to meet his brother’s wife. Until now he’s never seen her, never spoken to her. His brother’s been married for a few years now.
You can’t meet your brother’s wife? Yeah, women are just kept separate from the men.
Why are they so scared of people having sex with each other? It’s not Islamic.
Is it like that in all the Islamic countries? I mean, even in Australia and the Western World, the Ten Commandments, one of them is to not commit adultery. They take that really, really seriously over there. When you separate the boys from the girls, it becomes kind of like a prison. Straight guys end up going in prison and they’re in prison for years and they’ve got no contact with women and end up having gay prison sex. So that’s pretty much how it is in Saudi. There’s a huge gay community but it’s very much underground. They know it’s always a concern that boys are going to play and girls are going to play with each other. Boys are going to play with boys and girls are going to play with girls, and it’s not really accepted but it happens so much that people just don’t talk about it. Boys fool around with boys, girls fool around with the girls, until they reach a certain age when it’s time for them to get married, at which point there’s an arranged marriage and a man marries a woman and you don’t talk to your gay friends anymore, you keep away. Then you have children and that’s it. They consider it a phase.
So heterosexual males would do that as well? They would experiment, yes. It was quite rampant.
That would happen in Australia too but I’d imagine it would be very rare, but blokes here can go and meet a nice lady whenever they like… Yeah, you can. Yesterday we were in Liverpool and we saw this couple, they looked like they were 15 or 16, a boy and a girl, they were sitting under a tree and they were making out. That just would not happen in Saudi Arabia, they would be arrested immediately. In our culture, virginity is very, very important. If a girl is going to get married and her husband finds out that she’s not a virgin, that’s just terrible, because it brings shame on her and her family and it’s just a completely different culture.
Is it just male insecurity? The thought of, “My wife might have had a better dick than mine,” is that what it’s all about? What is this all rooted in, excuse the pun? You tell me. Why do we have this crazy separation, separating the men from the women? I think it’s just…
A cultural thing that’s been around forever… Yeah, it’s just a cultural thing that’s been around for thousands of years, I think.
So, you’ve been demoted and had to leave your job, then they outed you? Yeah, I was being demoted. I had to leave the Ministry. We didn’t know what was going on. I knew that the Canadian reporter really screwed things up for me because I couldn’t work any more at the Ministry – they pushed me out – and I needed to work to make money. The only thing I knew was journalism and fixing, field production, so I continued doing that. Then Nassar’s mother called and told him, “Stop seeing Sultan,” and then his brother called and told him, “Look, the family’s going to come after you guys.” Nassar still said, “Nope, I’m not going to stop seeing him.” Then on September 5th, 2019 I get a phone call in the afternoon asking me to go into the Criminal Investigation Division at the local police, Presidency of State Security. They called me and I was like, “Oh shit, they’re calling me again, I wonder what it’s about this time.” But they called him as well, asking him to come in, and he had nothing really to do with working with the foreign media – Nassar did video production for the Ministry – so we figured that his family had made good on their threat to have us separated.
If we both get called in by the Criminal Investigation Division and we both have to go in, it’s pretty much clear what this is about. It’s going to be about our relationship, especially with his family threatening that they’re going to use whatever power they have to separate us – they’ll either kill me or have us arrested or whatever. I got the phone call and a few hours later he got the same phone call, asking us both to come in on Sunday. That night we had a panic reaction, “Oh shit, what are we going to do? What if we show up on Sunday and they end up separating us?”
They’d already killed Jamal Khashoggi at that point? Jamal Khashoggi had been killed by then.
They’d been knocking off people left, right and centre hadn’t they? Well, Jamal Khashoggi was the most high profile murder that happened. But what was really scary was that dozens and dozens of journalists were being arrested.
So they put you in the clink? They put you in jail, yeah.
They wouldn’t just go and assassinate you in your bedroom or something like that? No, even the Jamal Khashoggi murder, I don’t think it was a government sanctioned murder. I think the order was to bring him back to Saudi.
How come they had a surgeon there? Well, Jamal was a good guy, I used to work for him. I know Jamal well. He was a good guy. He’s not the kind of person that’s going to give up very easily and just be like, “Oh, okay I’m going to go back to Saudi Arabia with you.” No, he fought.
Why did they have a surgeon there to chop him up? I think that was just very, very bad planning. I think they had the order to bring him back and if that order failed then to do away with him. I think that’s the orders that they got. But that could never be proven, that’s never been proven.
And that’s come from the top, right? I would have to say… I mean, not very much happens in Saudi Arabia that they don’t know about, especially members of the assassination team or the team that was supposed to bring him back, they were very close to the top. They were part of the Royal Guard. That’s why there’s a good suspicion that they had something to do with it. But they’ve denied it absolutely.
We don’t really know the facts. Saudi Arabia hasn’t put them out, but if the intention was to kill him, it could have been done a lot more smartly. This is a horrible thing to say, but if you want to kill somebody… just a random street robbery, you know? Just have somebody come up, stab him, take his belongings, that’s it. You could have him run over by a car, you know? Saudi Arabia does have a history of kidnapping people from other countries and bringing them back to Saudi. They’ve done that with a few princes that were outspoken against the Saudi government that were living in Switzerland and Germany and other parts of the world. They were actually tricked into being put on a plane.
Are you scared of the Saudi government now? Do you think they’re going to try and do something to you here? Well, implying that they had something to do with Khashoggi is not going to go down well.
But it’s blatantly obvious, right? Everyone knows that… Nobody really knows because it hasn’t been proven. The CIA came out with a report saying that he definitely knew about it.
Yeah, which Donald Trump totally ignored… He just sort of disregarded it, yeah. But am I afraid of our government? Yes, of course. What can they do to us here? Australia is a very good country to be in. There’s a lot of Saudis that escaped from the Kingdom that are living here that haven’t had any problems, but our embassy is so powerful and money talks. The ultimate nightmare for us would be walking down the street one night, having a van pull up, sliding door open, you get yanked inside, you get a needle to put you to sleep and next thing you know you’re on a private jet to Riyadh.
And you reckon that could happen in Australia? That could happen anywhere in the world. It just depends on the local government. Diplomats can do anything, they don’t get searched coming into a country or going out of a country.
So it’s quite realistic that the Saudi Arabian government could come and kidnap you and take you back to Saudi Arabia… They could, but I don’t think we’re that important. We’re not that important. I mean, I’m not Jamal Khashoggi, I’m not outspoken against the government. Don’t forget I spent 16 years trying to ensure fair and accurate reporting about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through the foreign media.
So when you got called in, what happened from there? September 5th, when they called, we had to sit that evening and kind of analyse the situation, look at our options. We can either separate and leave each other or we make a run for it. We decided that night that we were going to make a run for it. We’d been together for 16 years and he’s my best friend, he’s my boyfriend, he’s everything to me. When we were faced with the decision to escape or to separate – make the family happy or we make a run for it and make ourselves happy – we decided to make a run for it. The next morning we put our dog in the car and we drove to Jeddah. We didn’t want to fly out of Riyadh because we were called in to Riyadh on Sunday. If there’s a register of us being on a plane going to Jeddah they might realise that we’re not showing up for that meeting on Sunday and then they’ll block us from travelling.
We drove to Jeddah, left the dog with friends, and on September 7th booked the first flight we could get out of the Kingdom to a country where we wouldn’t need a visa, and that was Egypt. We got the first flight and we flew to Cairo. We did that the day before we were supposed to go and meet up with them. We landed in Cairo and we had enough money where we could live for a few months. We had to start looking at countries where we could go. We didn’t want to stay in Egypt for too long because if the government wants us they’re going to be able to get us in Egypt. Money talks in Egypt and Saudi has a lot of money.
We applied for tourist visas to Canada. We could have gone to the UNHCR offices and we could have gone to the Canadian Embassy and spoken directly to them and been frank with them about what happened, but the Canadian Embassy doesn’t let anyone in except for Canadian citizens. If you want to apply for a Canadian visa, they have an office that’s staffed by a subcontractor – all Egyptians – and it’s not very secure. We didn’t want to go to the UN refugee offices because those were probably being watched as well, especially with the number of Saudis that are escaping Saudi Arabia now.
We decided that planning for a tourist visa to Canada was the best thing, but we stayed about a month in Egypt. Canada came back with a response for Nassar saying he didn’t have enough travel history where they felt comfortable enough issuing him a visa. That was a day of panic, “Oh shit, what do we do? Where do we go?” The longer we stayed in Egypt the more money that’s being depleted, and we wouldn’t have enough money to get out.
Nassar did some research online and he found that Australia gives Saudis instant electronic visas. We went online to the immigration website, filled out a form and paid the $160 fee. I got a response back within two minutes. Australia had granted me a two-year, multiple entry visa. So we did the same thing with him.
It was that easy? It was that easy. Instantly, I swear to God. I filled out the application, put in the credit card number and hit send.
I thought we made it really hard to get here… You make it really easy to get a visa, but you fly half way around the world down under and you arrive here and then that’s when they really analyse you.
When did you leave for Australia? I got the visa instantly, his visa came back three days later on Monday, and on Wednesday we were on the next flight over. When we arrived here in Sydney, we went through immigration. They stamped our passports, we went through immigration, then we got our bags and were heading out, going through customs. The doors were right there, it was like 20 metres away – there, just 20 meters away, was freedom. The plan was for us to come here, contact gay and lesbian organisations, refugee organisations, asylum organisations, get an immigration lawyer and apply for asylum within Australia, which the immigration website said you could clearly do.
As we were going through customs we were approached by an Australian Border Force (ABF) officer. They said, “Please stand in queue number one.” It was only us they stopped from the flight, probably because of our Saudi passports. We went to the desk, and I recognised this desk and the inspection hall from this TV program called Border Force that I used to watch. I made sure we filled out the landing cards correctly and everything was legit.
They call us in, the ABF open up our bags. They have Nassar on one desk, I’m at another desk, they’re going through our stuff, and then they take away our phones. They’re like, “Under section whatever of Australian law, we’re entitled to check your phone.” They took my phone and his phone from us and they went into some room. They made us unlock the phones and they went through our phones and then the ABF woman comes back to the desk and she’s like, “I have reason to believe that you’re going to be applying for asylum here. Are you going to be applying for asylum?” I said, “Yes we are,” at which point they took us into the interview rooms. I was in one room, he was in another. They talk to us for about three hours and then at the end of that three hours, the woman comes to me and says, “Well, we have reason to cancel your tourist visa, you’ve got 15 minutes to think of a really good reason why we shouldn’t.”
By this point we had been flying for 32 hours, we had been in the interview for three or four hours, and I’d had enough. I told the woman, “It’s obvious you’re going to cancel the visa anyway so I don’t have anything to tell you.” She comes back 15 minutes later with a notice of intent to cancel our visas. I said, “Well what are you going to do now?” She’s like, “We’re going to send you back to Saudi Arabia.” I said, “You can’t send me back to Saudi Arabia. Right now, I’m telling you, I’m making an official asylum claim. If you send us back to Saudi Arabia, we’re going to be killed.”
Would they kill you or would your family kill you? His family would kill me, I’m sure. Then they told us, “We’re cancelling your visa, you can’t come back for three years.” Suppose they had sent us back to Cairo or Manila, which was the last destination we came from, that would have been okay. But if we’re going to go apply for a visa for another country, we’re going to have to say we were denied entry to Australia – that our visas were cancelled – and that doesn’t help anything at all. I told them, “You can’t send us back. We’re going to end up being killed.” Then she asked, “Are you making a permanent protection visa request now?” I said, “Yes, officially, we are.” She’s like, “Okay, we’re going to have to put you in immigration detention. On Monday a decision will be made on what we’re going to do with you. We’re just going to have to hold you in immigration detention for a couple days.” I was like, “What’s that like? Is it like a jail with bars and criminals and sodomy and rape and stuff like that?” They’re like, “No it’s a really nice facility, it’s like a college campus. You’ll only be there for a couple of days.” I was like, “Okay, we can handle a couple of days.” They put us into a holding area together, a room with a couple of beds in it. We were in there for about an hour. Next thing I know, these five enormous f*ckers come in from a company called Serco, all in uniform.
I was like, “Oh my God, what is this?” They pulled out the handcuffs. “It’s just policy, we have to handcuff you,” they said. They handcuffed us in the front and then they walked us out through baggage claim. At that time there was a flight from Dubai that had just arrived. It was so embarrassing being marched in handcuffs in front of dozens of people from the Middle East. They were looking at us like we were drug dealers or we just got arrested for bringing heroin into Australia.
We arrived at the facility, at Villawood, thinking we were only going to be there for a couple of days. I asked them, “How long are we going to be here?” They’re like, “Usually it takes two, three months, eight months, nine months, to get you an approval.” I’m like, “But the ABF told me that we’re going to be out on Monday. They’re going to make a decision.” They told me, “They say that to everybody so that you don’t have a panic reaction in the airport.” I was like, “Shit, we need a lawyer.”
I called up Holly Williams, an Australian friend of mine who works for CBS News. She’s the one who told us, “Oh, you should check out Australia, it’s a great place to be gay if you ever want a new life.” I called up Holly, because they let you keep your phones, fortunately. “Holly, we just got arrested, our visas have been revoked and we’re in a place called Villawood.” She’s like, “Oh f*ck, keep your phone with you. Wait, let me make some phone calls.” She made a bunch of phone calls and half an hour later she says to me, “Call Alison Battison, she’s with Human Rights for All. She’s the top immigration lawyer in the country that deals with refugees and stuff like that, give her a call.” So I called her up and she’s like, “Yes, I got a phone call from Holly Williams, I’ll take your case.”
Five days later, she came to visit us there at Villawood. She gave us hope that we would be out soon but soon was two or three months. She said the average time is six months, but she has gotten people out in two months, three months. She said to be prepared to be here for a couple of months. I was like, “Oh my God, okay. Well at least we’re in Australia. At least there we have a permanent protection visa thing in progress.” When they started to process our applications, part of that was to get a health check. They did a chest x-ray and found that I had cavities in my lungs and that Nassar had something starting in his lungs as well. It ended up being tuberculosis. We had covered the Hajj pilgrimage, which brings three million people into a seven square kilometre area, people from all the f*cked up areas in the world like Bangladesh.
You had tuberculosis? Yes, we had TB, but we didn’t know it because we were not coughing up blood, we were not coughing badly. There was no weight loss, no night sweats, no fevers, we felt fine. Next thing I know, the International Health Medical Services (IHMS) people – they run the medical facilities in all the detention centres – came over to the unit we were housed in with gloves on and masks and they’re like, “Here, put these on,” and we’re like, “What’s going on?” They said, “The doctors will tell you.” They took us to the clinic and the doctors explained that they suspected we had TB, at which point we were taken to the hospital.
Nassar went first. They kept him there for a couple days in the hospital. After that, they took me to the hospital as well and we were put in adjoining rooms. It took Nassar 17 days to no longer be infectious. It took me 47 days. After 17 days they released him from the hospital and took him to Villawood and I ended up at the hospital by myself without him. He’s my baby. We’ve taken care of each other since 16 years, so for us to be separated… I mean, we left Saudi Arabia to not be separated, to not be thrown in jail, to not have what was happening now to us. We were in jail, we were being separated. He was in one place, in a facility that’s considered somewhat dangerous, and I was in the hospital not knowing when I was getting out. It was scary. It was very, very scary and it was very upsetting.
F*ck, mate… After 47 days I was no longer infectious, that’s when the visas started getting processed quickly. While I was in the hospital, while we were both in the hospital, after 30 days of being in detention, I’d had enough. I told the lawyer, Alison, “We need to activate the media. Who do you know?” She knew a reporter named Helen Davidson from The Guardian. Helen called and did an interview with me over the phone. That story just exploded all over the world. It was kind of a sexy story because Jamal Khashoggi had just been killed. It was also sexy because we’re gay Saudis, which is something that was practically unheard of. That story started the ball really rolling.
Gaudis… What are Gaudis?
Gay Saudis… Oh, there you go. That’s right. Maybe we should change our last name to Gaudi then? Helen from The Guardian wrote the story and it gained a bit of attention, but it got the attention of ABC National Radio. They have a morning show that apparently all the ministers and people listen to on their way to their different offices. I was on ABC Radio and then The Project got in touch with Alison and they interviewed me over the phone twice. Then I started calling my friends from the international media, from CNN, ITN, BBC… I’d been working for 16 years with the top tier media. We’re talking about people like Lindsey Hilsum, Peter Greste, just so many people, all those big names. I was like, “Help!”
“Get me out of here”… “I need your help.” Reuters did an amazing story that went all over the world. The gay community, Australian gay community, were awesome. A guy named Ivan Hinton-Teoh – he’s an Order of Australia Medal recipient, he’s one of the people that got the marriage equality bill passed – came and visited us at Villawood. He came with a lady called Joe Ball, who runs Switchboard. They did a little video about us that went out to the gay community. Then the gay community started getting outraged. There was a petition started to get us out. People were calling various ministers to try to get us out. Everybody was using their clout, and apparently the gay community here is extremely powerful. Senator Janet Rice from the Greens, she heard about our case as well. She put out a press release asking the government to release us.
When I read that press release from the Greens, demanding our release, I asked Alison, “Can you please find some way of us reaching her office?” She got me her phone number and I called her up. “Hey, I’m one of the two Saudis, I wanted to say thank you very much for your involvement. I mean, your voice is extremely powerful as a senator.” She was like, “Oh, it’s not over yet. I’m going to try to get a motion passed in the senate to push the government to expedite your release and recognise that you guys are in danger being a gay couple in detention here.” Janet Rice went in front of the Senate. She ended up talking to… who’s the person who runs One Nation?
Pauline… Pauline. The one that wore the hijab into the parliament.
Sorry about her… Well, you know what? Janet Rice told me, “I have never, ever, ever spoken to Pauline Hanson.” She said, “I’ve never ever spoken to Pauline Hanson – absolutely refuse to – but for you guys I went and I met with her, and I met with Jacquie Lambie,” which is another difficult one apparently.
Interesting lady, yeah… They both agreed to go ahead then agreed with the motion, which is unheard of.
Let me get this straight, Pauline Hanson and Jacquie Lambie helped two gay Arabs get out of Villawood Detention Centre? Can you imagine that? Just saying it makes me emotional.
Bloody hell… But that was because Senator Janet Rice went and spoke with them. The day that our motion went in front of the Senate was the same day that they cut medevac. We were given clear health, we were no longer contagious, a motion was passed in the Senate, and then things just started to move quickly to get us out. December 13th came and our lawyer called up. “I have good news and I have average news,” she said. “Nassar’s getting out today. The minister has decided to sign off on his visa, but you’re not going to be released.” I was like, “What?” I mean, this is the worst thing in the world. They’re going to release Nassar, keep me in detention, and he’s going to be out in Australia without knowing anybody. Of course you get a bit insecure too. He’s going to be out clubbing and partying and meeting people and I’m going to be stuck.
At 12pm the guards come and they tell Nassar, “Pack up your shit, you’re getting the f*ck out of here.” That’s exactly what they said. It was a very difficult day. The most difficult day for me was the day he was released from the hospital and I was not. The second worst day was the day he was released fromVillawood and I was not. The third worst day was the Monday that I was supposed to be released a few days after he was released, and I wasn’t, especially with the Christmas holidays coming up. If I didn’t get out that week then I would be in for the whole holidays, probably until February.
Then Peter Greste got really cracking. He called up Peter Dutton’s office and spoke to an assistant. He told them, “What the heck? This has generated a lot of bad press internationally. You need to release these guys.” Dutton’s assistant was like, “Okay, let me see what we can do.” They went through our paperwork quickly and signed off an order for me to be released soon after.
If you were his nanny you would have been allowed straight in… Now, looking back on the experience, coming here and finding out that we had TB and getting hospitalised and treated for it, all that must have cost the Australian taxpayer well over $200,000. The TB had advanced in our bodies to a point that it had created cavities in my lungs. If it had not been discovered at a certain point it would have been fatal. TB usually takes two to five years to kill a person, so coming here literally saved our lives. We will be eternally grateful to Australia for that. We were treated with great dignity and respect by the Serco people, believe it or not. We were treated with great respect by the people in the hospital.
What did you do when you got released? We called up Alison, our lawyer. She put Nassar up in a hotel near her for a few days at her expense, God bless her for that. When I was released I called up our friend Holly Williams from CBS News. Holly said, “I’ll put you up in a hotel. Whatever you guys need I’ll pay for it.” She felt terrible because she’s the one who suggested Australia.
How long did you end up spending in Villawood? Nine weeks, 47 of those days were in hospital. From there we went to a little hotel in Casula because we got cleared from the TB but we still have to go to Liverpool every day to continue with the medications. We have to take 15 antibiotics a day. Then we started counting on people’s generosity to set us up. A bunch of organisations had heard about us by this point. They were calling up Alison, they were calling me up, saying, “If you need anything… what do you need?” I said, “Well, we need a place to stay.” A family were going on holiday to Cambodia for three weeks and they said, “You’re welcome to stay at our house, just feed the cat and water the plants.” Then Mark Isaac – he’s another journalist – said, “Hey, I’ve got a place in Bondi, would you like to come and stay in Bondi?” I was like, “Hell yeah,” because in Saudi we used to watch Bondi Rescue and The Bondi Vet.
Who’s your favorite Bondi Rescue star? There’s the one that looks like David Hasselhoff – Harries – and they’ve got this really cute young one now, he’s got long blonde hair down to here – Jethro.
Are you staying here forever? I sure as shit hope so! Where else are we going to go? Our permanent protection visas – our asylum visas – are being processed in a much faster fashion than before. We’ve already gone through the interviews.
When will you find out? In a couple months. We’ve got visas for five years that will be cancelled once the decision is made whether they’re going to give us permanent protection or not.
Then you’ll become Australian citizens? You’ve got to stay here for two or three years. They want to make sure you’re a person of good character, at which point, yeah, we’ll hopefully become Australian citizens, which would be amazing. It will be really, really amazing. But the great thing is, you don’t have to be an Australian citizen to be given an Australian passport, so we’re hoping that once our permanent protection visas are approved we can get Australian passports. My dad is really sick in Egypt and he’s probably got a year left. I want to be able to travel but I can’t travel with my Saudi passport because it will be too easy for them to get us. If we’re travelling on Australian passports we’ll be pretty safe.
What’s so dangerous about Villawood? The drugs mainly. It’s not doing the drugs, or getting involved in the drugs, but it’s the drug gangs.
Villawood is full of crims? This is one thing Australia needs to change. Around 90 per cent of the people that are in Villawood are people that had visas who are not Australian, visas to be out in the community, to work and live life. Many people had been here for nine, ten, twenty years, but then they go and commit a crime, and if it’s a crime that they’re sentenced to more than 12 months in prison for, they are sent for automatic deportation once they’re released from prison. So they go to Villawood. These are people that have a prison culture, that prison mentality. They come with those prison addictions to Villawood. The same tricks and the same games they play in prison are now being played in Villawood. The government needs to separate refugees and asylum seekers that have committed no crimes, that came to Australia legally, like us. We came with valid visas, we did not come on a boat and try to sneak in on Bondi Beach or something. We came in with a valid visa and we didn’t commit any crimes.
When you have really dangerous criminals in with people like us, it’s not ideal. People start hitting you up for money. From day one we were offered marijuana and ice, from day one. There was one guy in there, he had a problem with a couple of other Arab guys at Villawood. We actually saw one of them assault him one day. They didn’t like this guy at all.
He had a drug test that was coming up in order for him to possibly be issued another visa. These guys knew that he had a drug test coming up, so they suddenly started being very nice to him. They called us over, “Hey can you help us carry these oranges?” so we carried a bunch of oranges in these plastic bags and they started making orange juice. I’m thinking, “Oh, how nice, they’re making juice for each other, what a great community.” Well, we had a couple of glasses of orange juice and there was a little bit left. Then – and he did this in front of us – he poured the juice into a cup, took out a bag which had this white powder in it, he crushed it up, opened the bag and he poured it into the drink. I was like, “What is that?” and he’s like, “It’s ice.” We’re like, “Why are you putting meth in the guy’s drink?” He told us, “We don’t like him. We don’t want him to pass his drug test. Don’t say anything.” They went and they gave the guy the juice and this poor guy, we watched him, he was going from here to there and walking around and looking on the ground for cigarette butts and just going here and there and everywhere. He wasn’t having breakfast, didn’t have lunch… There’s drugs all over the facility. They’re being passed from one unit to the other under the fence.
How do they get in there? I thought it wasn’t so much the guards, I thought it was more the visitors. Australian law does not allow pat searches of this area [genitals] – you can’t touch anybody there – so visitors would come into Villawood, they would pack the cannabis and the drugs.
Sit it under your ball bag and Bob’s your uncle… Exactly, put it under your privates. Then they go into the bathroom, they leave the drugs there, and during visiting hours the inmate would go in the bathroom as well and he would place the drugs down there as well. They would scan you with the wand and pat you down, but they don’t touch you there. You could put half a kilo of meth down there.
Depending on how big your balls are… One way that we thought it was getting in at Villawood, when the guards come in for the day they’re not allowed to come in with their own backpacks – they have bags that are see-through – so I didn’t think it was the guards so much. But when we were at the hospital, after the media attention started, they started allowing Nassar to come visit me at the hospital three times a week. One day he was in the hospital elevator with the guards and they had a bag. It wasn’t a see-through bag or anything. The guard was getting something out of the bag and as soon as it opened the smell of marijuana filled up the elevator, the strongest smell of marijuana, from the Serco guys that were guarding him.
Are you already looking for work? Yeah, I’m desperate for work. Nassar is a very talented cameraman and video editor. I’m looking for something in journalism. When we came to Bondi it seemed like a small community, everybody knew each other. We thought this would be a great place to have some kind of newsletter or little magazine. A couple of days later I open up the mailbox at our apartment and there’s The Beast. I read it through and was like, “Wait a minute, who puts this together?” Then I found James at The Beast. That’s when I emailed you hoping that I could contribute somehow, which you’ve kindly offered.
In a perfect world, what does the future hold for both of you? A perfect world would be both of us having full-time jobs doing what we know – me being a TV producer and Nassar being a cameraman and editor. Ideally I’d love to work for SBS or Channel 10, both of us together, because that’s what we did in Saudi. A perfect world would be for us to be able to bring our dog back, have full-time jobs, get Australian citizenship, pay taxes… We actually want to because Australia spent so much on us, on our health, that we feel we have to pay that back. So yeah, good jobs, have our dog back, Australian citizenship, buy a house, have kids, find a surrogate, and just finally live a life without fear and stress. That would be perfect. We just want to live like everyday normal Australians do ‚óŹ

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