BBC Waterloo Road star 'detained in Dubai for 8 weeks' shares social media warning

Sofia Hayat had to go in front of a judge after falling foul of a little-known Dubai law
-Credit: (Image: Yui Mok/PA)


A former actress from Waterloo Road has revealed that she was held in Dubai for two months after threatening to expose a friend on social media. Sofia Hayat, 39, who has also appeared on the Indian version of Big Brother as well as the BBC soap, was on a week-long trip when she found herself in hot water.

She had a disagreement with someone she alleges borrowed money from her and threatened to expose them on Instagram. Sofia didn't think much of it until she attempted to board a flight and her passport was confiscated by the police.

She alleges that she was detained in a cell for six hours and interrogated for another six hours. Unbeknownst to Sofia, she had violated strict laws regarding defamatory comments on social media.

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The actress was instructed to remain in Dubai without her passport and was forced to rent AirBnbs for two months. Sofia, who hails from Battersea, London, claims she was finally allowed to return home without being fined or imprisoned after appearing before a judge.

She estimates her extended stay cost her £20,000, and she lost an additional £20,000 in business as a spiritual healer during her absence. Now back in the UK, Sofia told the Mirror : "Dubai is actually a hell hole. I expected a modern country full of glamour, wealth and all the amazing things it appears to be on Instagram and TikTok.

"That's all a lie. I'll never go back. Being held like that is horrible. I was heartbroken and it was extremely lonely. I was constantly cancelling clients because I couldn't go home and worried all the time that I'd lose them.

"I couldn't book a long-term place to stay because I had no idea how long I'd have to be there I was having trouble sleeping. I had no idea I'd committed a crime until I contacted the public prosecutor. I just wanted to go home."

Sofia flew to Dubai on December 28 last year from London - and was due to be there for seven days. She fought with a friend who she claims borrowed money from her - and threatened to post about it on social media, she said. Sofia said she tried to go to Saudi Arabia to spend New Year's Eve with a friend.

But at Dubai International Airport she claimed her passport was taken and she was held by police from 3am to 3pm, being questioned by up to five officers. The cell she was "freezing, dirty, and small", she said. Sofia claimed: "They just threw me in a cell - they didn't tell me anything.

"When I asked what was going on, the policeman just told me to 'shut up'. At first I was having panic attacks. I was shaking and crying as they questioned me. They kept saying I'd threatened to expose a sex tape. I threatened to expose a name. In the end they did let me go, but I wasn't allowed to leave the country. Eventually, I coped by meditating - I just imagined myself in London laughing about being detained in Dubai."

After a two-month ordeal, the public prosecutor informed her that threatening to expose someone on social media is considered a crime in Dubai. At a hearing, she was given permission to leave after it emerged there were outstanding financial issues involved.

Sofia voiced her confusion about the proceedings, as the entire legal discourse took place in Arabic. She ended up having to pay a £400 fine at the Dubai airport for visa overstay and managed to fly back home on February 26.

"I think the only reason I got out is because I have a British passport and I'm an ex-Bollywood actress," Sofia claimed. The British Embassy in Dubai has not responded to our requests for commentary.