02/23/2007versione stampabileprintinvia paginasend

Despite being in love, couples in Saudi Arabia are made to divorce
Without a thought to the problems of wedded couples in the west, couples who are in love in Saudi Arabia are made to divorce and, in some cases, sent to prison.

Mansour Al-Timani and daughter, Noha. The Saudi Gazette Fatima and Mansour. This happened to 34-year old Fatima Al Timani, who has been imprisoned with her one-year old son in the city of Damman for six months. Fatima is only the latest victim of the forced divorce phenomenon, a practice where the families can call off a marriage even against the spouses’ will. Her story has received much sympathy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and various intellectuals have arranged a petition addressed to King Abdullah, to resolve the problem of forced divorces and to reform women's rights. Fatima's saga began two years ago, when she married a man called Mansour who had lied about his family's social status to gain her family's consent to marriage. When Fatima's brothers found out about Mansour's humble origins they denounced the couple to the courts in Jeddah, accusing them of illegal cohabitation. The pair, who declare that they are still in love and who have had two children, were separated and imprisoned. Suleiman is the one-year old son who lives with his mother in prison, whilst two-year old Noha lives with his father. Their situation became more complicated at the beginning of February, when the Court of Riyadh confirmed that the appeals-court ruling remained the same. Fatima’s husband Mansour believes that the sentence is 'un-Islamic' and consequently has refused to recognise it. "If the family wants her to marry another man even when we consider ourselves married, there is nothing I can do. God will be our judge". According to Irfan Al Alawi, director of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism in London, Fatima and Mansour's story is not an isolated case, but one that concerns at least 19 other couples forced to divorce, where the affairs are in the hands of the Saudi courts.

Donna saudita Rania and Saud. A similar story is that of Dr. Rania Albou Enin, eight months pregnant and awaiting an appeal court’s decision against a divorce imposed by her father. Rania is in hiding whilst the husband, Saud Al Khaledi, is in prison in Al Khobar. Her saga rests heavily on the fact that her family is poor and neither her father nor her brothers wanted to forsake her financial support. Rania was working in a hospital and had a modest income, so her father and brothers refused to approve the marriage and used violence to force her not to marry, as it would deprive them of an extra salary. According to Islamic law, if a woman's guardian denies consent of marriage without a valid reason, the court can remove the legal rights of the guardian and nominate another. So Rania turned to the courts in Al Khobar. When her father found out about the case against him he stepped down violently and shut her in the house. When she was finally able to leave a year ago, Rania went to Bahrain where a judge agreed to become her guardian and to marry her to Al Khaledi. When the newlyweds returned to Saudi Arabia, her father told the authorities that the husband had raped her. The judge decided to annul the marriage with the father's approval and due to “tribal incompatibility between the couple”. Saud, the husband, could choose whether to hand Rania back to her family or to go to prison - he chose the latter so as not to stain her honour, as in the meantime she had become pregnant. Ibrahim Mehari, his lawyer, told him not to be optimistic because the case could end up like the last one. His legal office follows the cases of six other people in the same situation as Rania and Saud.
Naoki Tommasini