Article Published in Middle East Eye – This investigation was tracing Pakistani prisoners who had been duped on the promise of a pilgrimage, the end destination was a prison in Saudi Arabia. This story was incredibly difficult in terms of access as the prisoners were located in Saudi jails. Therefore, I spent many weeks negotiating with families of the incarcerated if I would be able to speak to the prisoners during their monthly phone calls home. However, this was also a concern as all calls at Saudi’s largest jails are monitored, which would create a situation for the female prisoners. Therefore, in regards to access, it was a delicate balance in ensuring their safety in order to share their very difficult journeys. Many of the contributors who bravely shared their experience of being duped into a false promise of pilgrimage, were ultimately forced to swallow drugs. Therefore, once the inmates had bravely shared their stories, I was able to track the gangs who were trafficking innocent Pakistanis to the kingdom. Tracking the journey of the gangs substantiated the prison claims of being pressured to swallow gemstones which contained drugs, therefore, this evidence was given to Pakistani government as a record that Pakistani prisoners were incarcerated with no legal representation.
Following publication, a Saudi Human rights lawyer from European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights reached out to assist the inmates with legal assistance. This was a very important story in highlighting the very fraught record the Saudi kingdom has on human rights, given the fact that MBS had publicly stated he would release Pakistani prisoners one year on nothing had been done. It was imperative their story was written as these voices are so often neglected in Pakistan due to the economic relationship between the two nations, and the censorship in both countries.