MARRYING FOREIGNERS IS A BURDEN ON SOME CITIZENS
By Saadia Muhandis
Arab News, MAKKAH
5 April 2008
The phenomenon of Saudis preferring to marry foreigners is quite widespread in the Kingdom, which is known for its traditional conservative culture. Arab News met a number of people whose marriages to foreigners had broken down due to various reasons.
But despite this and the host of challenges that come with such marriages, there are many citizens who still consider marriage to a foreigner as a better alternative than remaining single.
Saudi men say high dowries drive them to marry foreigners. They also add that Saudi women are greedy, annoying and bad-tempered, and that woman from foreign countries, in comparison, are loving, tolerant and pamper their husbands.
In response, the Saudi women say foreign men are respectful and supportive of women working. They also add that Saudi men cannot provide them with what they want and that marriages to Saudi men often end up in divorce.
However, marriages to foreigners are not always successful. “I met my ex-wife in Europe and I decided to marry her. My family rejected the idea. Nevertheless we got married and had a baby girl together,” said Yasser, 32, a Saudi national.
“We divorced four years later. My ex-wife contacted the authorities of the country where we were living soon after the divorce and was successful in banning my child from leaving the country and, so I’ve stayed abroad to ensure she is brought up with good values that is similar to ours,” he added. “My daughter is 13 years old and I’ve been abroad for 11 years. Under these circumstances, I can’t come back to the Kingdom,” he said.
Khaled’s brother married a Far Eastern woman after experiencing problems with his Saudi wife. “During a business trip to the Far East, he met the sister of a businessman he was dealing with. They invited him for a meal and he became attracted to her,” said Khaled.
“The woman laid a trap with her brother to extort money from my brother. The woman and my brother got married and came to live in the Kingdom,” he said, adding that they had three children and that the woman soon received Saudi nationality.
“After that she changed completely and began to ask for money and property and threatened to take my brother to court, emphasizing that as she is Saudi now she can ask for her rights,” he said.
Hafsa Al-Takrouny, a specialist in social affairs, said Saudis who wish to marry foreigners should think about the challenges they may face on account of cultural differences.
“Children are the ones who pay the price at the end of the day in case of a divorce or the death of a Saudi partner,” she said.
“The other spouse would take the children to his or her home country and they would be deprived from having contact with their relatives in the Kingdom. Taking children away and isolating them in a different culture for years makes it difficult for them to get used to Saudi culture,” said Al-Takrouny. “People always treat them like strangers,” she added.
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Makkah, said that a man should think twice before deciding to marry a foreigner. He should think about the problems that could result from such marriage and its consequences.