The Complicated Story Of Huda Al-Niran (Saudi) And Arafat Radfan (Yemeni)

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Now out of the media spotlight, the story of young lovers Arafat and Huda once captured the attention of the worldwide press in 2013. It has been 11 months since the couple last saw each other.

A Forgotten Love Story
By Mohammed Mahdi Al-Samawi
Yemen Times
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

To All Saudi Spouses Of Americans And Half-Saudis With American Nationality…This Is A Must Read!

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September 15th, 2014 at 11:28 comment at the end of the below article by Virginia La Torre Jeker J.D., says: “…We will all see in time just how much trouble FATCA causes. One of my Arabic-speaking clients told me yesterday that the Arabic word for “Destroy” or “Destruction” sounds very much like “FATCA” in pronunciation. Interesting….. and perhaps, foretelling?”

Thank You, FATCA, You’ve Just Left Me Stateless
By Virginia La Torre Jeker J.D
AngloInfo: The Global Expat Network (Dubai)
Let’s Talk About: US Tax
15 September 2014

Multiple Nationalities – Caught in the Big FAT(CA) Trap

There is no international law or convention that determines an individual’s nationality or citizenship. One’s nationality is strictly a matter of the laws of a particular country. For example, a country can grant citizenship by descent (usually from a parent or a grandparent). The nationality laws of the United States are found in various citizenship and nationality statutes such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, some provisions of which bestow citizenship based on descent. US nationality is also based on the principle of “jus soli” (the law of the soil). “Jus soli” is a rule of common law followed by the United States, under which the place of a person’s birth determines his citizenship. In addition to common law, this principle is embodied in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution which states, in part, that: “All persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Depending on the particular laws of the various countries involved, a person can have multiple citizenships. Multiple citizenship can arise precisely because different countries can and do, have different rules governing the criteria for citizenship with the result that the individual may satisfy the citizenship requirements of more than one nation at the same time.

Having multiple citizenships can sometimes cause problems since one country’s laws or policies might conflict with the other country. Some countries prohibit their citizens from holding dual or multiple citizenships. This prohibition can be enforced by requiring the individual who applies for naturalization in that country to renounce all existing citizenships. It can also be enforced by stripping citizenship from an individual who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another nation, or by other means.

Many GCC countries do not permit dual nationality – for example the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait.

FATCA – Root of All Evil?

By now, just about everyone has heard of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, “FATCA”. FATCA has turned the lives of Americans living abroad completely upside down. It has resulted in many banks, both US and non-US, denying financial services to the estimated 7.6 million overseas Americans; decreased employment and investment opportunities for US persons and has been cited as one reason that so many are now giving up their US citizenship. Ultimately, it is said, it may result in weakening the position of the US dollar as the global reserve currency and causing significant harm to the US economy.

Closer to home, FATCA has had other unexpected consequences. Many of my Middle Eastern clients obtained US citizenship by happenstance of being born there while their parents were temporarily studying or working in the US. Others obtained US citizenship when living in the US for educational purposes. Those who left the US (many as infants) and returned to their homeland were clueless about their US tax obligations until their banks told them about FATCA. Many persons coming to me for help are very frightened and do not have a strong grasp of the English language. How on earth do I explain to such people that the mutual fund they hold in their home country is treated as a “foreign” mutual fund by the US and is really a dreaded US tax creature known as a “PFIC”?

Or that the pension plan set up by their employer in the country where they live and work might be a “foreign trust” for US tax purposes and that they should have been filing annual information returns or paying tax on the contributions and investment build-up?

Many do not have Social Security numbers (SSN) and are trying to obtain them simply in order to file US tax returns. They are learning the hard way that obtaining a SSN is extremely difficult to do after one has attained the age of 12. Some individuals are flying to the US in the hopes the process might be more expedient than dealing with the few Consulates or Embassies overseas that can process the SSN. If one resides in the Middle East, the specified Embassy for obtaining the SSN is located in Jerusalem, which isn’t accessible to Arabs due to escalating political tensions in the region. Becoming tax compliant is far easier said than done for many of my clients.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Not only are many desperately struggling to become US tax compliant, many GCC nationals are becoming quite concerned that their government will learn they hold a prohibited “second” nationality. Under FATCA, foreign financial institutions must agree to verification and due diligence procedures – meaning they must be on the look-out for customers, owners or beneficiaries evidencing any “US indicia”. They must identify and report directly to the US Internal Revenue Service or to their own government via an intergovernmental agreement (IGA), information on US account holders. FATCA will help expose GCC nationals who hold US citizenship by a financial institution’s transmission of that information directly to the home country government agency responsible for gathering information under the IGA. America, in its quest to root out tax cheats, has now put many of its own innocent citizens in a very perilous position.

This fear of detection seems particularly acute right now in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, Saudi citizenship can involuntarily be lost if a Saudi citizen obtains a foreign citizenship without the prior permission of the Prime Minister. See Articles 11 and 13 of the Saudi Arabian Citizenship System.

A recent news article in the Saudi press entitled “ American FATCA pursues 200,000 Saudis…and the Civil Status Department Threatens to Pull their Citizenship” offers some insight. Translated below are some of the more relevant portions of the article:

“In addition to the “strict” US tax system, Saudi laws are no less strict when dealing with dual nationals, even if these laws have not yet been actively enforced. Civil Status Department Spokesman Mohammed Al-Jasser said: “When dual nationality is discovered, the laws of the Saudi Nationality will be strictly applied. Article 11 of the regulations states that ‘no Saudi may have/acquire a foreign nationality, without prior authorization from the head of the Saudi Ministers Cabinet, and whoever has/acquires a foreign nationality without getting such advance permission, will remain Saudi, unless the Government of his Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia sees fit to strip him of the Saudi nationality”.

Article 13 provides that “By Decree, in any case, Saudi Arabian nationality can be stripped from Saudis, if they have any other nationality in violation of article 11 of this regulation”, stressing that “Saudis would be notified of the consequences of such actions, a legal notification, three months prior to the execution date of the Decree of the loss of Saudi Arabian nationality”. Under the provisions of this article “the liquidation of the property of the person who lost his nationality, in accordance with the legal system of property ownership, and be denied residence in the territory of the Kingdom and barred from any return to it”.

Many of my GCC dual national clients are now looking at renouncing their US citizenship. Many more thought they had already given up their US citizenship years ago when they took on, say, Saudi citizenship (usually after marriage to a Saudi national) and pursuant to Saudi law specifically renounced their US citizenship at such time. They are now learning, many years later, that this might not have been enough and that they are still US citizens because they did not give notice to the Department of State that they had the intent at that time to give up their US citizenship. They never obtained that critical document called a Certificate of Loss of US Nationality (CLN). If they try to get the CLN now with a retroactive relinquishment date, they will have to demonstrate they had the intent to relinquish US citizenship at that earlier time. This is often a very difficult burden to meet.

Many of my Saudi clients, for example, live in limbo – they are unsure of their legal status and unsure what may happen to them under the citizenship laws in their homeland that prohibit dual nationality. If they give up their US citizenship, what will happen if the Saudi government strips them of their retained nationality at a later time, once it learns of the transgression? They will be stateless and can be denied residence in the country they viewed as home. I also understand that all assets there can confiscated by the government. The consequences of FATCA could not be more far-reaching than this.

Follow me on Twitter: @VLJeker

by Virginia La Torre Jeker J.D.,. Find out more about Virginia La Torre Jeker J.D., here.

Photo Credit: AngloInfo

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Eid Al-Adha 2014

Asalamu Alaikum

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TaqabAllah minaa wa minkum!

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