What happened to me and my daughter at the Portugal resort?

Author Maryya Dean recounts the discrimination she faced during a hard-earned holiday

Maryya Dean decided to speak out after several years of suffering in silence.

My entire life I have been silent and the reward I got is a condition called bipolar and personality disorder. After many years of treatment and near death experiences, I decided not to suppress my feelings anymore and speak out. So that’s what I did when a stranger man told me I needed to wear less clothes in a pool on holiday with my children.

If this incident took place before I decided to speak out through my book, then like most people, I would possibly have done nothing at all and lived with the humiliation letting those responsible get away with it. I chose not to do this; I chose to speak out about it because I have found my courage. However since the article in the Daily Mirror I have been subjected to many death threats and racist attacks. I wasn’t silent because I was wrong; I was just gathering myself in my mind for this moment so that I can suffer in silence no longer.

As a human being and far more importantly a woman, a mother, I condemn what happened on the 21st July 2017 when a Portuguese man approached me and my family members insisting that I leave the pool as I was not wearing appropriate swimwear for the resident who complained. My sister-in-law was teaching my kids how to swim as they cannot swim and I was playing with the younger ones- hardly a breach of any culture. The manner in which we were approached, individually being singled out and told to stand up and show what we were wearing and have to defend our ‘culture’ as this man kept referring to, was humiliating to say the least. He based his assumptions of religion and ‘culture’ purely on the colour of my skin. When we insisted that we were wearing appropriate clothing that is only to be used in the pool. We were told we could only wear shorts or bikinis. When did it become appropriate, socially acceptable or just for a man to stand above you in the presence of your family and small children and tell you that you were wearing too many clothes? When?

The most intimidating part was when my nine-year old daughter was asked to stand up in the pool to show what she was wearing before I was asked to do the same for the inspection of our swimwear. Why was it okay for her to have to be asked to do that and parade herself in the name of making an example of what ‘Portuguese culture’ is about? She was wearing a swimming costume, where I was wearing swimming leggings and a swimming top. He then said “you are not allowed to wear this. You have to wear a bikini” to which I was outraged and in response said “this is so rude, how can you tell a woman whether she needs to wear a bikini to be in the pool or not, where is it stated among rules that are posted on this wall?” He continued by saying “Only you have a problem because this is your culture” to which we probed “what culture are you referring to, I’m from Britain and was raised there my whole life”. It wasn’t about culture or religion, it’s a confidence thing and how we do not feel comfortable wearing a bikini; I know many women will share my thoughts on that. I just happen to be Muslim as well and practise my faith as it feels right to me. His references to culture and borderline racism were what angered us the most. Why does the colour of my skin and my reluctance to show more flesh makes me belong to any religion or none at all? And even if it were religious beliefs why is it acceptable to be spoken to like that. I didn’t have an issue with anyone else using the pool, men, women, covered and uncovered, then why were we being treated that way? Why was that okay? I don’t understand what wearing a bikini has to do with Portuguese culture. Bikinis are worn around the world for swimming and at beaches, by people who are happy to do so and great on them but since when did it become a nation’s culture?

Surely, every country has rules and regulations; every place has a culture. If one breaks the ‘rules’ knowingly or unknowingly, it would not be out-of-place to correct the person in a respectable manner. I feel that all people deserve respect, not the least whilst on a hard-earned holiday with children.

As regards people’s negative comments on this matter, I wouldn’t blame them because our state of mind differs. We are all different and yet the same.

With reference to a post by a woman on my social media, I have to say that as a fellow woman, I am astounded that we are unable to understand each other. The burkini she made reference to is not an unhygienic piece of clothing. It is designed solely for swimming. What makes one more hygienic over the other? It saddens me that as someone from Albufeira itself, you don’t see the importance for tourism that you so readily told me that I shouldn’t go there.

For those who accused me of staging this up for the sake of free holiday compensation, if that was the case I wouldn’t have protected the identity of the complex and the company we used for the booking of our holidays. Furthermore I had been repeatedly asked to sell my story to several other Medias but I chose to ignore them and despite my efforts they still went ahead without my consent and published my articles around the world. In some articles I also read things that I found were fabricated. This issue is not about money and never was. I have not received any compensation nor made any claim against our treatment. I simply have raised awareness of the treatment that I consider as unacceptable.

I refer to the quote from Eliderico Viegas, president of the Algarve Hotel Association in which he states;

“The British are repeat offenders in presenting complaints to obtain compensation” (source: metro.co.uk)

He goes on to say;
“The logical thing would have been to have made a formal complaint and want to name the place where this happened”

Given that Eliderico does not have any details of where the incident occurred or any other detail how could he possibly speculate that this was done in order to obtain compensation? Where is his/her proof of this claim and considering this issue has nothing to do with food poisoning how could he/she generalise the ‘British’ in such a manner as to accuse all British tourists of seeking compensation? Is this reflective of a person who is not stereotyping a person based on their country of origin? How many cases of compensation are there in comparison to those British tourists that don’t claim compensation to warrant such a statement? Not all British tourists act the same on holiday and not all compensation seekers have to be British. We have not in any way done this to gain compensation; the matter is not about the money. I hope that is clear.

As someone speaking on behalf of the Algarve Hotel Association and claiming that we didn’t file a police complaint or a complaint to them so therefore the events that happened to us do no exist or are ‘exaggerated’ is ludicrous. Firstly, although the bad treatment of our family of 10 (adults and a baby as young as 8 months), the man in question to our knowledge did not break any laws that we would have sought to make a police complaint. So going to the police wouldn’t have occurred to us to be quite frank. We didn’t complain to the Hotel Association as we did not stay in a hotel, so out goes that argument. What we did do was the ‘logical thing’ and report to the person that we had booked the apartment from. We informed the manager of our apartment of our incident and he arrived to our apartment within hours and was understanding of our situation and even offered to go to the pool with us the next day and speak to anyone of the apartment management for us. He handled the situation so well that we really felt humbled that someone was understanding and made us be sure in our minds that this is not the real ‘Portuguese culture’ that we told by the poolside. We chose not to use the pool again because of the humiliation we faced and didn’t want to put the children through more of this sadness- a holiday they were looking forward to for months, purely just on playing in the swimming pool for.

The apartment manager has spoken to me in support of this issue since it has been raised in the press and has given me his support. He has also sent me photo evidence of other pool users as of just Tuesday 1st August that are using the pool in shorts and a t-shirt! How biased is that! When we were using the pool with our children in swim appropriate clothing we were told we couldn’t and had to stop and here a man of a different ‘culture’ was not stopped from using the pool whilst in a casual t-shirt. Why the difference and why did that resident not complain?

I am deeply let down by the media and how images of me and my family have been taken from my social media pages. I’d like to ask what relevance these pictures have to my story. Why this invasion of my family is okay to parade them all in a bad light? I am a mental health sufferer and it has taken a long time to come to terms with and to understand and comprehend. I found my voice through my book on mental health issues and spoke up about it and have used this as a way to help people accept it too. The way I have been portrayed in the media as a liar and an acquisitive person has left me shattered. I am not that person and never have been. I spoke out about this because having found my voice ,I didn’t want to be silenced; living my life regretting that I didn’t speak up about the rights of women and how we can be treated so inferior at times. I have really struggled with all the negativity and death threats, all because I spoke out about a horrible situation that happened to my family. As anyone suffering from mental health will know it can be so hard to speak up when the easiest thing is to let those horrible words eat you up inside instead.

With all honesty, I would like everyone to know that the Portuguese culture is rich. They have loving and caring people. We had no other issue with the accommodation; both the complex and our apartment were beautiful. I would react the same way if this happened to me in any part of the world; the question of the matter is the way I was treated and spoken to; that is unfair and condemnable.

Also, Read: Jayalalithaa’s last coffee with Cho

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