Irish Woman Charged With Attempted Suicide in Dubai, Sparking Questions Over UAE Law

Irish Woman Charged With Attempted Suicide in Dubai, Sparking Questions Over UAE Law

Tori Towey, an Irish woman facing criminal charges for attempting suicide in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will be allowed to travel home to Ireland.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald shared that the travel ban imposed by the UAE government has been lifted and Towey—who hails from Boyle, Roscommon—will travel home to Ireland. “We await her return and the end of her nightmare,” McDonald wrote on X (formerly Twitter). 

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Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance to Towey, 28, who has been living in Dubai since April 2023, and working as a flight attendant for Emirates Airlines, according to a post by the Detained in Dubai group, which provides legal help in civil and criminal cases. Towey was charged with consumption of alcohol and attempting suicide, which have historically been criminalized acts in the UAE. Within Detained in Dubai’s post about Towey, it is alleged that she was facing domestic abuse from her husband and that he physically attacked her before the incident took place. Her husband has yet to publicly comment on these allegations.

Read More: You can view the CDC’s guidance on suicide prevention here.

Towey—who survived the alleged suicide attempt—was taken to a local police station, where she had her passport destroyed. Until Wednesday’s U-turn decision, she was previously prevented from leaving the country, the Dáil, the lower house of the Oireachtas, Ireland’s parliament, heard on Tuesday.

McDonald told colleagues in the Dáil of Towey’s case and called on Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Simon Harris to intervene, The Irish Times reported. “The system over there, rather than protecting this woman who is an Irish citizen, chose instead to detain her to charge her. She’s now under the most incredible stress when I spoke to her this afternoon,” McDonald said.

McDonald also said that Towey’s mother Caroline had flown to Dubai to be with her daughter. 

Harris, who said he was not previously familiar with Towey’s case, vowed to offer any support the Irish native requires. The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of the case and is providing consular assistance to Towey. 

TIME has reached out to both the Irish and UAE governments for further information and comment on Towey’s case. 

Radha Stirling, who founded Detained in Dubai, told BBC News NI she had spoken to Towey on Wednesday morning and remarked on the momentum behind the Irish woman’s case. 

“The Irish government is certainly stepping up in record time, we usually don’t see them come together that fast,” Stirling said. “I’m expecting with that diplomatic push we might be able to get her home even before the court date next week, but of course we have to plan that it could go very badly and she could end up with a prison sentence,” she added.  

Towey’s case is set to be heard in court on July 18.

What is the suicide legislation in the UAE?

While suicide has historically been illegal in the UAE, it was widely reported that 2020 reforms to the Gulf nation’s personal status and penal laws would see landmark changes to decriminalize suicide and attempted suicide. While survivors of suicide were rarely prosecuted, the law left them vulnerable to charges and less likely to seek help. 

Alcohol consumption was also decriminalized in the same wave of reforms, which aimed to modernize the nation where expats form around 88% of the population.

However, per documents from the UAE’s Ministry of Justice pertaining to the “Federal Decree Law No. (15) of 2020,” those accused of attempting suicide can still be subjected to incarceration of “no more than six months,” a fine of “no more than 5,000 AED” ($1,361), or both punishments. The court is also given the discretion to order that the detention period be served in a “healing facility.” Meanwhile, those accused of aiding an individual attempting suicide are “subject to the punishment of incarceration.”

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental-health crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider. 

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