Abuse takes place in all places of the world. However, most places do have a fair and just legal system in place if that abuse is reported. While inroads are being made in Saudi Arabia, they are not being made fast enough.
This past week, Selma Ahmed (not her real name) was apprehended and arrested because she left with her two daughters to get out of an abusive relationship from her Saudi husband. Selma, although not of Saudi origin, does have Saudi citizenship. Monday, April 29, police officers came to her place of work and arrested her. The charges are she and her two adult daughters had left the home of her husband without his permission.
Activist and photographer, Samia El-Moslimany, spoke with the police officer and he told her that Selma will be detained until she is willing to return to her husband’s house. In spite of the fact that Selma fears for her life is she returns, the police officer put on deaf ears and stated that Selma will continue to be detained until she goes back to her husband.
According to the policeman, the “established procedure” is that Selma must first return home and then she can file a formal complaint. Selma’s husband came to the police station and insisted she return home with him. He attempted to force her and assaulted her in front of police officers.
Selma was transferred to Briman Women’s Prison in Jeddah. The fate of her daughters is unknown and there is fear that the father may have forcibly made them return home.
Selma’s case is here and now and requires immediate action. She should not be contained in a prison because she fears for her life from her abusive husband. Now is the time for Saudi Arabia’s reforms in domestic violence to be put into immediate action.
Sadly, Selma is not my first exposure of domestic violence in Saudi Arabia. Another case was “Saudi Stepford Wife.” Saudi Stepford Wife was an engaging American woman married to a Saudi and had also obtained Saudi nationality. She lived in the Eastern Province. She maintained a blog which I enjoyed reading very much. We got to know one another through our blogs which eventually led to email exchanges and finally a personal meeting in 2008. I hosted her in my home while her Saudi husband attended business meetings.
By that time we had become pretty close and she shared her dark secret with me. She was married to an abusive man and feared for her safety. Her parents were elderly and she did not want them to know. She also swore me to silence.
I rue that day. If I could go back and do things differently, I would. I would not have honored my promise to her. Although I never met or saw her husband, my spouse met him when he came to pick up Saudi Stepford Wife from my home. I’ll never forget my husband coming back in to the house with such a look of distaste on his face. He looked at me and said “That man is a pig and gives his wife no respect.”
After that visit I only heard from Saudi Stepford Wife two more times. Since she had shared her secret with me, she was telling me how she had plans to leave her husband and take a job in Jeddah. Sadly, her plans never came to fruition. She simply disappeared off the radar. Enquiries revealed that she had suffered a bad fall and as a result, was afflicted with terrible brain damage. She did not know who she was or even where she was. No one was able to make contact with her. Her husband made sure of that. This is a heavy burden of guilt that I still continue to bear for in retrospect, I should never have kept her secret.
Last but not least, there is dear “J” , a Saudi woman, who candidly shared her experience with American Bedu readers. Thankfully she was able to get herself extracted from her hideous experience and find true love. Sadly though, she was taken too soon due to the insidious disease of cancer. However, she left her imprint on many of us around the world.
Yes; I am aware of other cases of domestic violence in the Kingdom. However, I am much more outspoken and forward with any woman who shares that secret with me. At a minimum, any woman in Saudi Arabia should have the web site and phone numbers for the Kingdom’s new domestic violence program sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation.
nb Update: American Bedu is so happy to report that thanks to the efforts of Samia El-Moslimany and her team of heros, Selma is now safe! She has been released from jail and safe with Samia. They are now searching for her daughters. Please take time out and say a prayer that Selma and her daughters will be reunited soon.
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