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María Jimena Rico and Shaza Ismail.
María Jimena Rico and Shaza Ismail. / SUR

Couple found safe in Turkey after terrifying cross-border pursuit

  • Torrox woman María Jimena Rico and Shaza Ismail have been located in a deportation centre after fleeing Dubai where they had been reported by the latter’s father

A 28-year-old woman from Torrox has been found in a deportation centre in Turkey with her partner after a supposedly terrifying international pursuit involving her partner’s father.

María Jimena Rico lost touch with family on the Costa del Sol on Monday while crossing Turkey. She is travelling with her girlfriend, 22-year-old Shaza Ismail, of Egyptian origin.

María’s family in Torrox reported the women missing on Tuesday when they failed to make contact. María had previously told her family how Shaza’s father had dramatically travelled from his home in Dubai to confront the pair at the airport in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, threatening to kill his daughter for her sexuality.

In a WhatsApp message sent from Georgia, María said to a friend, “The father tried to take her by force, the family is mad... Seriously they’re going to kill us.”

María left Torrox four years ago to work in London. Having recently met Egyptian-born Shaza on a trip to Dubai, where Shaza’s parents live, they both returned to London, only to be summoned back suddenly, on the pretext that Shaza’s mother was ill.

On arriving back in Dubai on 15 April, according to María’s family, it was clear that the illness was a ruse and Shaza’s father had reported his daughter to the authorities for her sexual orientation, as homosexuality is illegal in the UAE.

The couple fled Dubai immediately to stay with friends in Georgia, but while waiting at Tbilisi airport to fly back to London last week, María told how Shaza’s father suddenly appeared, made his threat and ripped up their passports.

María Jimena's friend, sister and mother with photos of the two women.

María Jimena's friend, sister and mother with photos of the two women. / EUGENIO CABEZAS

Georgian police were called and when everyone was released, the women fled overland by bus towards neighbouring Turkey, where the nearest Spanish consulate is.

After a few attempts to cross the border, including being held for twelve hours as suspected terrorists, the couple succeeded in entering Turkey.

Contact lost on Monday

At 9.38am last Monday morning they spoke to a friend in London and said they had reached Istanbul. On hearing nothing from their daughter afterwards, and following her instructions to go to police if they lost contact with her, the family reported the disappearance to the Guardia Civil in Torrox on Tuesday morning.

Speaking in Torrox, María’s mother, Teresa Montero, 65, said on Thursday, “Someone has got to be holding them captive, [María] was always on the phone, every day, she knows our numbers by heart.”

María’s family had managed to make contact with the father of Shaza, who claimed that he was still in Georgia, had not done any harm to the women but also said that he had no idea where they were.

On Thursday afternoon the women were located in an Istanbul deportation centre, where they had been sent after being arrested in the Turkish city of Samsun for not carrying passports.

Spanish ambassador to Turkey, Rafael Mendívil Peydro, said, “Fortunately, everything has sorted itself out”. María has been in touch with home, saying she has had no water or means to contact family and is waiting to be returned to London with Shaza.