Khaleej Times

In Saudi Arabia, divorce can have shocking aspects


JEDDAH — That the divorce rate in Saudi Arabia is shocking is telling it like it is.

These days divorce has become the only solution to marital problems among couples that have never understood the responsibilities of marriage. They either didn't make the right choice in the beginning or were forced into the marriage. But that it should come to a point when a divorce could be forced, is unbelievably shocking.

Writing in a recent issue of the Arabic daily Okaz, Rania Salamah, said: "I anxiously watched with a mixture of sadness, happiness, pride, shame, disgust, tension and relief an interview with Mansoor that appeared some time ago on the Al Ekhbariah channel."

Mansoor is the man who had his happy marriage cut short when he was forcefully divorced from his wife by a judge in Al Jouf on the grounds of it supposedly violating social customs and practices. Mansoor told the story of how his brothers-in-law — who incidentally are his wife's half-brothers — decided to dissolve his marriage because of supposedly tribal incompatibilities.

"Forcing a couple to divorce on tribal and social grounds is despicable and shameless," said Salamah. "I believe there are two contradictory aspects to the story. One that makes you feel disgusted at the wife's brothers, while the other makes you admire the couple for their courage in choosing to confront this injustice. Unfortunately, the court in Al Jouf issued its decision last August in the absence of both Mansoor and Fatima," she said.

A few years after their marriage, the couple were shocked to learn that Fatima's half-brother had filed a lawsuit to have their marriage annulled on the grounds that she belonged to a superior tribe to that of her husband's. In fact, they were unaware of the crisis that had befallen them until the judge annulled their sacred union.

"How can a woman be divorced from her husband when she didn't ask for a divorce nor did he divorce her?" asked Salamah.

The wife was forced to leave her house because of the court decision and had to go back and live with her family who instantly found her a new husband. The only common factor between her divorce and the second proposed marriage was that none of Fatima's family members had bothered to consult her in either case.

"Perhaps, the family will be next considering killing her and then changing her son's surname. I can just visualise the pre-Islamic state of ignorance this family is living in. To make things worse, finding no opportunity of recourse, the couple felt that the only solution they had was to run away with their children to Jeddah. However, Fatima's brothers didn't give up. They arranged for another decree giving her a choice of either going back to her family or ending up in prison," Salamah said.

She added: "I admire the wife even more for her bravery in preferring imprisonment with her children instead of going to her parents' home to be married off. It is better for her to be in jail for the time being than being divorced and entrapped. I also believe that her husband's tears, that flowed when the presenter asked him to address authorities in the kingdom for help, have dried up and now he has lost hope. However, the case is still unsolved and needs a permanent solution."

Salamah said that this case is only one of a series of crimes that can potentially occur in the courts of justice. The question that kept running through her mind after watching the programme was: "Is the judge who issued the decision still practicing as a judge? I know that judicial authorities intentionally postpone and delay divorce cases for a long time when a wife files a case. Judges have every right to give the woman a chance to think twice. However, this honourable judge ruined a scared union and allowed people with social and tribal sicknesses to triumph instead of advising them not to spread the disease among those who are free from such prejudices."