The marriage of an eight-year-old Saudi girl to a 50-year-old man has finally ended in a divorce. The case, which drew outraged attention from international human rights groups and many Saudis, was heard by a new judge who worked with the parties to reach a (assumedly financial) settlement. The judge who first heard the case and then again on remand, refusing the divorce both times, did not take part in the settlement.
This case, of course, does not have precedential value—no Saudi cases have value as precedent, unfortunately, as each judge is permitted to use his own best judgment to reach a verdict. We are likely to see similar cases until Saudi legal reform results in a uniform code of law, applicable across the Kingdom.
Child marriage case in Onaiza ends in divorce
ONAIZA – The arranged marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 50-year-old man, who has two other wives, has been annulled in an out-of-court settlement, court sources said Wednesday.
The settlement, mediated by a new judge at the court, was not without lengthy negotiations between the girl’s lawyer and the husband who clung on to the legality of the marriage until the end of the working day, when he finally agreed to divorce the child wife.
The parties involved were tight-lipped about the settlement. The lawyer, who was hired by the girl’s mother, was not allowed to talk about the settlement to the media until an official announcement of the divorce.
A handful of issues of popped up which draw attention to Saudi Arabia’s laws and approach(es) to marriage.
The one attracting most attention was the refusal of a Saudi court in Onaiza to permit an eight-year-old girl to divorce her 47-year-old husband. The case, which had been remanded to the court by an appeals court for reconsideration, reached the same result. Also similar are the reactions, both foreign and domestic, over the verdict.
(CNN) — A Saudi judge has refused for a second time to annul a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man, a relative of the girl told CNN.
The most recent ruling, in which the judge upheld his original verdict, was handed down Saturday in the Saudi city of Onaiza, where late last year the same judge rejected a petition from the girl’s mother, who was seeking a divorce for her daughter.
The relative said the judge, Sheikh Habib Al-Habib, “stuck by his earlier verdict and insisted that the girl could petition the court for a divorce once she reached puberty.” The family member, who requested anonymity, added that the mother will continue to pursue a divorce for her daughter.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz reported on the case as well. Commenters find the verdict to be un-Islamic:
Onaiza girl’s divorce put off
ONAIZA – A court here has upheld its earlier verdict in the case of the marriage of underage girl to an elderly man.
The earlier verdict by Judge Habib Abdullah Al-Habib stipulated that the girl must reach the age of puberty before determining whether she would continue her marriage solemnized in June 2007.
The judge tried to convince the girl’s husband to nullify the marriage contract in lieu of returning the dowry he paid, but he refused.
The papers note that the appeals court is going to get involved again, but this time putting the case in the hands of another judge.
The Arabic daily Al-Watan runs a piece (here translated by Arab News) about how it is a scandal that fathers are, in effect, selling their daughters. Perhaps even worse—because more widespread—are fathers refusing their daughters the right to marry because the fathers have become dependent on their daughters’ incomes. Often, the father’s will insist that even though a daughter marries, her income will stay with him.
Hearts made of stone
Qenan Al-Ghamdi | Al-Watan, email@example.com
Judge Khalifa Al-Tamimi of the General Court in the city of Onaizah in the central province of Qassim recently allowed two young Saudi women to marry — one a Saudi man and the other a foreigner. He took the action after their guardians refused to allow them to marry. The lawyer for the two girls, Mansour Al-Jitaili, said the two girls were facing spinsterhood because their fathers had prevented them from marrying. He attributed the fathers’ attitude to “greed and avarice.”
The lawyer urged all preachers and imams of mosques to explain the dangers of preventing girls from getting married. He said these people are doing a grave injustice to their daughters and are depriving them of their dignity.
I thought about the “greed and avarice” spoken of by the lawyer and understood it as taking the girls’ salaries. The girls may have been employed, whether as teachers or in other jobs I do not know. A father often finds in his daughter a source of income that he is loath to relinquish. He looks at his daughter as one of his personal assets, which he can use as he wishes.
Clearly, something has gone very wrong in the Kingdom. Codification of law, putting it into black and white, will help avoid the bizarre and barbaric verdicts we’re seeing come from certain courts.
According to the head of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Onaiza, there’s no friction between the media and the Commission. In this Saudi Gazette article, Abdullah Al-Majmah says that the members of the religious police are ‘only human’ and that their errors are corrected.
The problem is that those who seek to enforce morality need to be exemplary in their own morality. Like Caesar’s wife, they themselves must be above suspicion. It is good that the Commission recognizes its own frailties, but it generally fails to take the next step: realizing that all others are also frail, subject to making mistakes. The Commission has a tendency to come down hard on those who err, with detentions, verbal and physical abuse, and overall humiliation as their tools. Having taken on the role of enforcers of morality, they will be judged by a higher standard and must lead exemplary lives if they are not to be deemed hypocrites.
No rift with media – Commission official
By Sulaiman Al-Nahabi
ONAIZA – There is no rift between the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the media in the Kingdom, said Abdullah Al-Majmah, head of the Commission’s branch here.
The Commission is willing to interact with media personnel to root out evils from society, he said. The Commission, he added, has open channels with some daily newspapers and other media outlets.
Noting that the Commission has its task clearly set out and as such has nothing to hide, Al-Majmah said the Commission fights all aberrations on moral and ethical grounds, and “there is no reason why anybody should be angry about it.”
Refuting all allegations against the Commission as “baseless and untrue,” Al-Majmah said those criticizing the Commission have a preconceived biased notion.
He said the Commission staffers are no angels; if one of them makes a mistake, it does not mean that all are wrong. “Generalization is unfair. Human beings make mistakes.
This Arab News article on an appeal by the Saudi Shoura Council Chairman suggests that he doesn’t quite understand how US federalism works. He seeks the intervention of the Federal government into a state criminal case. It just doesn’t work like that in the US. The Federal government has already done as many favors (if indeed they were favors) for Homaidan Al-Turki—convicted of sexual abuse and withholding his maid’s wages—by dropping related Federal charges.
Al-Turki is exercising his right to appeal his conviction under Colorado state law, as is proper. But claiming that his behavior was ‘only typical Saudi behavior’ doesn’t say much good about Saudis in general or him in particular.
RIYADH, 28 March 2008 â€” Shoura Council Chairman Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid has urged US authorities to review the case of Homaidan Al-Turki, a 37-year-old Saudi student who was found guilty in a Colorado state court of 12 counts of sexually assaulting his Indonesian maid.
â€œThe Saudi people sympathize with Homaidan Al-Turki and they closely follow up his case,â€ the Shoura chief said and hoped for a speedy end to the issue. He also emphasized the Kingdomâ€™s respect for American justice.
Al-Turki, a former Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, maintains that he did not sexually assault the woman, whose identity has not been disclosed due to the nature of the alleged crime, and has accused US officials of persecuting him for â€œtraditional Muslim behavior.â€
… Al-Turki, who had been a graduate student in Colorado for nine years, was sentenced in August 2006 to 20 years for the rape charges and eight years for theft of the maidâ€™s wages. The federal charges of not renewing the maidâ€™s work visa, falsely imprisoning the woman and holding the womanâ€™s passport to ensure she didnâ€™t flee were dropped after federal prosecutors decided the 28-year-sentence by the state court was sufficient. Al-Turki is appealing the verdict.
Al-Turkiâ€™s wife Sarah Al-Khonaizan returned to the Kingdom in September 2006 after serving two months in prison related to labor violations: Paying the maid less than $2 a day for more than four years, and withholding this wage, too. Al-Khonaizan claims the maid willingly wanted her employers to hold her salary, a claim denied by the plaintiff.
Gulf News out of Dubai carries this piece about the visit of a senior Saudi Shi’a leader to Onaiza (Onayza/Unayza), one of the most fundamentalist Sunni cities in the country. Sheikh Al Saffar seeks to further his contacts with the ulema of Burayda, the most traditionalist city.
Sunni-Shiite relations in Saudi Arabia improve
Riyadh: At a time when relations between Sunnis and Shiites are becoming more complicated in neighbouring Iraq, the relationship between the two sects is improving in Saudi Arabia.
As an indications of this improvement, Shaikh Hassan Al Saffar, a senior Saudi Shiite leader, made a visit to Onaiza in the Qasim region, considered a stronghold of fundamentalist Sunnis in Saudi Arabia.
Shaikh Al Saffar’s visit was at the invitation of the governor of Onaiza prov-ince Musaed Bin Yahya Al Saleem, on the occasion of Onaiza’s first heritage and cultural festival.
In a press statement yesterday, Shaikh Al Saffar said his visit to Onaiza, the first by a Shiite scholar, is an extension of the goodwill between the people of Saudi Arabia.
He said the visit reflects the awareness of the people to the political situation in the region, adding that the domestic conflicts and lack of harmony among people in countries like Iraq and Lebanon made these countries live in turmoil.
Colorado Attorney General Meets Al-Turkiâ€™s Relatives
Hadi Azzam, Arab News
RIYADH, 17 November 2006 â€” Colorado Attorney General John Suthers met the relatives of a 37-year-old Saudi man convicted to 27 years in prison for imprisoning, sexually assaulting and stealing from his Indonesian maid.
Homaidan Al-Turki, a former Ph.D student at the University of Colorado, denies the sexual assault charges and has accused US officials of persecuting him for â€œtraditional Muslim behaviors.â€
Suthers met with Homaidanâ€™s brother Ahmad ibn Ali Al-Turki and the family spokesman Fahd Al-Nasar on Wednesday.
Ahmad Al-Turki reiterated claims that his brother was forced to shave his beard after being taken into custody and his wife was forced to remove her hijab. Al-Turkiâ€™s family and others in the Kingdom believe that the Saudi man and his family were mistreated.
Suthers used the meeting to describe the US justice system and to clarify some matters, including how evidence was collected and presented in the case and how Al-Turki was found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault, imprisonment, conspiracy to imprison, theft of the maidâ€™s $150-a-month wages and extortion. The immigration charges (paying less than federal minimum wage, not reporting the salary to tax authorities, and employing a woman whose work visa was expired) were dropped after Al-Turkiâ€™s wife Sarah Al-Khonaizan paid $64,000 to the maid for four years of unpaid work.
The Colorado case involving Homaidan Al-Turki is far from over. This Arab News piece notes that his family and a representative of the Saudi Human Rights organization visited the Attorney General in the case to learn what actually went on. Al-Turki’s American lawyer is still promising an appeal.
RIYADH, 24 September 2006 â€” The wife and two children of a Saudi man in Aurora, Colorado, found guilty by a US court on Aug. 31 of sexual abuse and imprisonment of his 24-year-old Indonesian maid have returned in the Kingdom.
The family issued a statement to the press after Sarah Al-Khonaizan and her children arrived in Riyadh on Friday.
The statement, signed by Hamad Al-Khonaizan, Sarahâ€™s brother, blamed anti-Muslim sentiment for Al-Turkiâ€™s prosecution, saying that a key factor for his imprisonment was that he was preaching Islam.
Arab News runs this article. What’s interesting about it is that the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is behaving rationally about the Homaidan case:
he United States guarantees both freedom of religion and freedom of speech in its constitution. Nihad Awad, the director of the Council for American-Islamic Relations, said in September that Al-Turkiâ€™s religion or nationality has not been attacked as far as he knows.
â€œI have not seen any reports within the US that attack his nationality or his religion,â€ said Awad. â€œBut I have spoken to many people from Saudi Arabia who believe heâ€™s in jail because heâ€™s Muslim and getting a harsh sentence because heâ€™s Muslim.â€
I frequently complain that CAIR has a tendency toward knee-jerk reactions whenever an American Muslim complains about anything. Here, though, they refrain from that. I give them credit for doing so.
DENVER (AP) — A Saudi woman accused with her husband of keeping an Indonesian maid as a virtual slave was sentenced Friday to five years’ probation and ordered confined to her home until she leaves the country.
Sarah Khonaizan, 35, pleaded guilty in May to harboring an illegal immigrant. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of forced labor and document servitude.
The ugly side of some Saudis was on full display in Denver. Ms Khonaizan’s husband, Homaidan Al-Turki, was convicted last month on charges that included false imprisonment and unlawful sexual contact by use of force or intimidation. He is awaiting sentencing Aug. 31.
DENVER (AP) – A Saudi woman accused of keeping an Indonesian nanny as a virtual slave for four years pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of harboring an illegal immigrant.
Sarah Khonaizan, 35, faces a sentence ranging from probation to a year in prison and a fine of up to $20,000, attorneys said. In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of forced labor and document servitude.
Prosecutors and FBI agents accused Khonaizan and her Saudi husband, Homaidan Al-Turki, of hiding the woman’s visa and forcing her to cook, clean and care for their five children in their suburban Aurora home.
The story of “Saudis Behaving Badly”, unfortunately, isn’t a new one. (Check this post at Gateway Pundit for others.)
Slavery was made illegal in Saudi Arabia only in the 1960s. It’s pretty clear that not everyone got the message.
It’s good to see that US courts are prosecuting these abuses. It’s even better to see that Saudi courts are starting to get a handle on the problem, too. And perhaps as important, the general issue of abuse is starting to rise in the awareness of the Saudi public and media:
Over 1,000 Abuse Cases Before NSHR
Lulwa Shalhoub, Arab News
JEDDAH, 8 May 2006 â€” The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) received 1,063 domestic violence cases in the past one and a half years. Among them were 400 cases related to childrenâ€™s custody after the parentsâ€™ divorce and 20 cases involving incest.
Almost all these cases are directly posted to NSHR by women, according to Dr. Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, NSHR research director.
â€œMale members of the family are involved in most of domestic violence cases,â€ said Zain Al-Abideen.
â€œCases of domestic violence against men are rare and even nonexistent,â€ she added.
The society received 5,000 cases since it started in the Kingdom in 2003. Thirty percent of these cases were domestic violence cases, including sexual financial, physical and psychological abuse.