Wish I could say that stories like this are found only in backwards, authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia. But unfortunately, that is not the case.
Divorced Saudi woman turns to media for help
By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR | ARAB NEWS
Published: Oct 12, 2011 23:22 Updated: Oct 12, 2011 23:22
JEDDAH: A divorced Saudi woman has turned to the media in a desperate bid to get her life and children back.
Thirty-five-year-old Salma Al-Ahmari, whose children’s fate lie in the hands of their violent father, was divorced nine years ago.
Her family refused to take her back following the split, leaving her in the dilemma of wondering whether to fight for her own rights first, or for her children’s.
Al-Ahmari is desperate to find a solution for her problem and so she contacted Arab News’ sister publication Sayidaty. She went to her family in a southern Saudi Arabian city, but they rejected her because they did not believe in divorce and the stigma associated with it.
“I used to spend my nights wandering the streets and would go to public places just to pass the time,” she said.
“In the morning I would look for a safe place like the airport mosque and sleep there. After a while the airport’s administration found out and that’s when a warm-hearted lady from the mosque offered me a place to stay until I find my own.”
Al-Ahmari visited Sayidaty’s office along with her 17-year-old son Nasser, who had run away from home, to tell her story.
She claimed that she had already visited the National Society for Human Rights’ office in Jeddah but they couldn’t find a solution to her problem.
“I’m only asking for my children to find safety and security from their abusive father and a home for my son and I,” she said. “I really wish I could live with my children under one roof again,” she added.
Al-Ahmari was forced to get married when she was 12. Her husband was 49 at the time. She said she was the daughter of a greedy shepherd who taught her nothing but how to take care of his sheep.
“My husband offered SR300,000 as my dowry and my father did not think twice to accept,” she said. “After the wedding we moved to the north of the country and he immediately started abusing me to no end. I lost my first baby because he beat me when I was pregnant and the child did not survive,” she added.
After the miscarriage she had five children: Mariam (18), Nasser (17), Noura (16), Badr (13) and Shahad (9).
Apart from Nasser, they are all with their father now. Nasser claimed his father refused to feed them and this was one of the reasons he ran away and reunited with his mother.
“My father takes pleasure in torturing us. He is well off and can afford to buy us food, clothes and provide us with a good education, but he just chooses to make us suffer for no reason,” he said. “He even locks the doors when he leaves the house and does not leave us with money or food. Sometimes my brother and I jumped from the window to leave the house,” he added.
“My father comes home late at night drunk and angry, and that’s when the horror starts,” said Nasser.
He said the children are always locked inside the house and their father does not even let them see sunlight. “He only takes us to his farm once in a while to clean and polish it,” said Nasser. “None of us go to school now and all my cousins make fun of us because we are not educated. He keeps saying that we are not fit for education as we are the sons and daughters of an unfit mother,” he added.
“I was once sick and couldn’t speak and I woke up one day to find my half-brother locking the door so he could rape me,” said Mariam. I couldn’t scream or fight because I did not have enough energy,” she told Sayidaty over the phone. “I tried to commit suicide by taking almost 30 pills on an empty stomach but my brothers rescued me later,” she added. Mariam tried to tell her father what happened but he screamed at her and called her a liar.
Al-Ahmari and her children should go through the courts to solve their problem, according to an arbitrator in Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ahmed Al-Maabi.
“The mother and her children should ask for justice, freedom and fairness,” he said. “What the father is doing is against Islam. He does not have the right to keep his children away from their mother and he should not abuse them whatsoever as well as drink, which is forbidden in Islam,” he added.