If you just tuned in to Stephen Comiskey’s nightmarish story on Locked Up Abroad: Dangerous Liaisons, I’m sure you have questions. We checked in with Stephen to get answers and see what life is like for him today and here’s what he had to say:
How long was your contract in Saudi Arabia supposed to be? And how long did you live there before you ended up leaving the country? I was only meant to go for a year and ended up staying over two years. Before it all happened, I had ended my contract; but had to extend it as I wasn’t allowed to leave the country.
What was a typical day for you like?
A typical working week was 48 hours long. My shift started at 7 a.m., so I woke at 5:30 a.m. to get ready and then we were ferried to the hospital by hospital transport. I worked 12 hrs shifts and finished at 1900 hrs and then was ferried back to the compound. I would usually spend my days off with friends at their compound, which was much better than the one I lived in. If I was off on the weekend (which everyone lived for), I would attend any parties that were on either private compounds or the embassies. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot to do there apart from shopping and eating. No cinemas, no clubs; even going to friends was a task in and of itself. You had to be signed in or know someone in the compound who could sign you in. People tended to go to Dubai or Bahrain as well, as it was more liberal and it meant you got a break from the restrictions in KSA.
Besides your family, what did you miss the most while you lived in Saudi Arabia?
I missed not being able to just go out and see my friends. You got to understand, just going somewhere was a task. You had to organize a reliable cab driver, leave at a certain time be home before curfew. I guess i missed my freedom.
And what was the best part about living there?
The friends I made and the money. Yeah money doesn’t make you happy, but it gives you choices and allows you to do the things you weren’t able to do.
The parties, such as that first one at the Prince’s palace… did these events seem to be regular occurrences? Weren’t people afraid to get caught by the religious police?
There were parties every weekend, and you could have your pick if you knew people and had made good connections. Of course you’re warned about the religious police and you are told to be careful and not to get caught. But after a while you forget where you are. Everyone is having a good time at the parties, you’re getting invites to different parties. You forget about the dangers.
Did you ever find out if Abdullah had given the Mutaween his phone or information about you?
No, I never found out and most likely never will.
How did the reporter in the UK learn of your arrest and contact your wife? Did they ever run the story about you?
Someone—be it friend or foe—contacted the Scottish Sun Newspaper and sold my story to them. The reporter then called all the Stephen Comiskey’s until he eventually found my ex-wife; I hadn’t told her and he had told her I was to be beheaded. The foreign office asked them not to run it while I was still there as it would put my life in more danger. They ran the story three days after I got home. I wasn’t aware of it.
When your friend suggested that you escape to either Egypt or the United Arab Emirates, what went through your mind? Did you ever consider it as an option?
Of course I considered it!! I knew the risks that would be involved, but I just wanted to go home. I could see myself on a ship crossing the Red Sea. Freedom. You think all kind of crazy shit. I just wanted out of that hell hole.
Looking back, would you have done anything different?
A life lived with regrets is no life at all. I think I would have been more aware of the place I was in. Like I said, it’s very easy to forget where you are. You live in a bubble there; it’s not the real world.
Are there any life lessons you can draw from your experience?
Not to take anything for granted. When someone takes your liberties from you, you realize how much the west takes everything for granted.
What advice would you give someone who is homosexual and considering traveling to Saudi Arabia for work or pleasure?
It’s not just homosexuals, it’s everyone. Remember, men and women who aren’t married are not allowed to be seen together either. It’s forbidden. So any single person who thinks they can handle life without sex, alcohol, or any human contact other than with the Arabs will do just fine. Other than that—if you can’t—you need to be willing to pay the price if you go there and get caught. This is not about being homosexual, this country is about control.
Do you openly share your story with people?
Some people I have done so. Not always.
You left Saudi Arabia just over a year ago… what’s life like for you now?
Life is good. I’m working hard, seeing my kids. Trying to put a book together, which is hard work. Yeah it’s all good. It’s a good feeling walking out your front door knowing you can go where you like and don’t have to be back at a certain time.