A Forgotten Love Story
By Mohammed Mahdi Al-Samawi
16 October 2014
It’s a love story that captivated a nation.
At 22 years of age, in late October 2013, Saudi national Huda Al-Niran fled her home and tried to illegally cross into Yemen. Waiting at the border was Arafat Radfan, her Yemeni boyfriend.
The couple first met about four years ago in Saudi Arabia. He was working at a mobile phone shop, she needed to fix her phone. They knew almost immediately they wanted to spend their lives together. However, when Arafat asked Huda’s family for her hand in marriage, her father reportedly said “we do not marry our daughters off to Yemenis.”
Huda thereupon decided she would run away to Yemen. She grabbed all her money and jewelry and headed to Yemeni border. Knowing Arafat would think her plan was too dangerous, she didn’t tell him until she had arrived the country.
However, the couple was caught by Yemeni security forces and detained. Arafat was accused of helping Huda enter Yemen illegally, though he was acquitted during his first hearing after Huda confessed that the plan was hers alone. Although free to leave, Arafat declined to leave the prison until Nov. 24, the day Huda was conditionally released.
Huda was transferred from the grounds of the Migration and Passport Authority, where she has been held since entering Yemen, to Dar Al-Amal (House of Hope) in Sana’a, a shelter for homeless women, where she remains confined today.
A year after running away together, and almost 11 months of being apart, Huda and Arafat’s modern day “Romeo and Juliet” love story is not only unresolved but has been largely ignored.
Seeking a way out
The last time Arafat and Huda were in contact was in November 2013. Since then, the couple has not even spoken a word by phone.
After being held in Dar Al-Amal for so long, unable to leave the premises or communicate with her lover, and largely forgotten by the media and Yemenis who once followed her story so closely, Huda’s mental health has deteriorated significantly.
About two weeks ago Huda decided to try and kill herself, according to Taghreed, another woman resident in the Dar Al-Amal home.
Taghreed, who preferred to only give her first name, said that some of the women in Dar Al-Amal discovered that Huda was going to try and consume a lethal quantity of pills. They stopped her and locked her in her room so that she would not have access to any sharp objects.
“Huda is not the same as she used to be. Her face became pale and her body became very thin, and she refuses food. She only eats once a day, after the home’s employees insist she does,” Taghreed told the Yemen Times.
Taghreed said that after the “laws of two countries separated them,” Huda waits for the moments in which she would “see that light, meet Arafat, and live with him under one roof.”
Both Huda and Arafat already threatened that they might kill themselves if they were not allowed to be together, a threat which has become especially concerning after the recent event that transpired at Dar Al-Amal.
Huda’s lawyer, Abduraqeeb Al-Qadi, told the Yemen Times that no one is allowed to visit her in the home, except for people who are working on her case. Al-Qadi said the government is trying to justify this involuntary confinement by claiming to keep her safe.
Al-Qadi confirmed that Huda’s detention at Dar Al-Amal “resulted in some psychological disorders.”
Back in January 2014, Al-Qadi told the Yemen Times he feels the government effectively moved Huda from one prison to another.
“Huda is now imprisoned in Dar Al-Amal and that is certainly in conflict with her asylum status, which gives a person the right to freedom of movement and also to live wherever he or she wants,” he said.
Huda has not been granted asylum, but has been granted a level of protection while seeking asylum which according to her lawyer gives her the right to freedom of movement.
Stuck in the courts
Arafat, who looks much older than he is for his mid-20s, is still working hard to free Huda so the two can finally tie the knot.
Speaking to the Yemen Times, Arafat said the couple’s case has been thrown around the courts. He finds himself alone, tangled within a series of complex procedures.
Lawyer Al-Qadi, who also represents Arafat, said he is still handling the case in Yemeni courts. In his view, there has been no ruling in the case so far due to Saudi interferences.
While Huda was still in the Migration and Passport Authority’s prison in November 2013, the South East Sana’a Preliminary Court gave permission to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to visit her. During a certain period of time the UNHCR visited Huda in preparation of trying to grant her the right to asylum and to transfer her guardianship from her father to the court. The last step would allow her to marry Arafat according to her own will.
Arafat said that during this time Huda was given protection by the UNHCR while she sought refugee status.
According to him, considerable pressure was exerted by the Saudi embassy through its lawyer Abdullah Al-Mujahid to return Huda home to Saudi Arabia. Her father alerted the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs that his daughter escaped home with the help of a Yemeni man. After the Saudi embassy’s lawyer informed Huda’s father about her intention of marrying, the father told the lawyer to try to get her deported by telling the Yemeni court that the girl is married to a Saudi man.
Arafat said that the couple’s marriage case was transferred to the Bani Al-Harith Court in Sana’a after many other courts rejected the case due to its sensitivity. In Al-Qaid’s view, the courts don’t want to take on a controversial issue between the two countries.
In August, the judge of Bani Al-Harith Court, Radwan Al-Omaisi, asked for the guardianship of the girl to be transferred from her parents to the courts through the Saudi embassy and gave the embassy’s lawyer a month to do so.
However, the period ended with no response from the embassy or the girl’s family. Another court session began in mid-July, ending in mid-September. During the session the judge renewed his request, threatening that the guardianship will be transferred automatically if the court does not receive a response by mid-September.
According to Arafat, it was only in a third court session that the Saudi embassy’s lawyer brought the marriage contract, which the judge refused to accept on the grounds that the Bani Al-Harith Court is not specialized in family affairs.
The judge then asked for Huda’s alleged husband to attend the next court session. The man did not show up, neither did an attorney to defend his interests, and no personal documents for the alleged husband were filed.
Arafat added that the couple’s lawyer, Al-Qadi, provided a virginity test at court, which was carried out by the UNHCR in Dar Al-Amal, evidencing that the girl was not married before.
Arafat said the last time he talked to Huda, she maintained that she was not married to anyone and that there was no marriage contract when she fled Saudi Arabia to Yemen last year.
For almost a year now, Arafat has called on the Ministry of Human Rights, the UNHCR, and the court to look into and decide the case, so that the UNHCR could finish the procedures and Huda could be granted asylum.
He yet again threatened he might kill himself if the case is not expedited.
According to lawyer Al-Qadi, “this is not a simple case. It became more than a love story between a man and a woman—it is [now] a matter of sovereignty between two states.”
Back when the young lovers’ case was making headlines there were numerous reports circulating that Arafat was receiving support from influential figures. Arafat called the news about donations and grants “a lie,” maintaining that he has received no support, whether moral or material.
Like Huda, Arafat is feeling increasingly pessimistic, worrying that their love story is not going to have a happy ending. “It has been a year since Huda is locked up. I am helpless. If we cannot be here together we might as well die and meet in heaven,” he said.
Photo Credit: Yemen Times