MORE SAUDI WOMEN OPTING TO MARRY FOREIGNERS
By Habib Shaikh (Our correspondent)
30 October 2007, JEDDAH
Saudi women are increasingly opting to marry foreigners. Recent statistics issued by the Interior Ministry showed that in the past five years 20,000 marriages have been registered between Saudi women and foreign men.
Saudi women are prohibited from marrying non-Saudis, except with special permission from higher authorities.
Permission is also required for a Saudi woman to marry an Arab, who is not a citizen of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state.
According to Majed Al Sharif from Riyadh’s Marriage Court, this year there have been, a higher number of cross-nationality marriages compared to previous years. He said that his office had received 28 applications for such marriages.
Shaikh Abdulaziz Al Askar, a marriage registrar, said that the number of marriages between Saudi women and expatriates are way below the number of marriages between Saudi men and foreign women. ‘The former doesn’t go above 13 per cent of the total cross-nationality marriages that are registered,’ he said.
Al Askar said that this is due to the fact that applications by men to marry foreign women take less time to get approved than applications by women. He added that men also have options to have more than one wife and this explains why the number of marriages between Saudi men and foreign women surpass the number of marriage between Saudi women and foreign men.
‘Cross-nationality marriages are discouraged by many members of society, particularly when it involves a daughter marrying a foreigner,’ said Dr Muhammad Al Zulfa, a member of the Shoura Council. He added that living in a rich and tax-free country is attractive for many foreigners, who can easily achieve this by marrying a Saudi woman. For this reason, some families remain unsure about a foreigner’s real intention in getting married and so reject him.
Some Saudi social experts believe that Saudis, a majority of whom have tribal roots, which used to consider marriage to another Saudi tribe as a source of disgrace, are now becoming more accepting to the idea of cross-national marriages.
Dr Nasir Al Oud, associated dean of academic research at the Imam Muhammed ibn Saud University in Riyadh, said that Saudi families, who regularly travel abroad, are generally more broad-minded when it comes to their daughter marrying foreigners.
One example of such a marriage is that of Mona Makkawi, a 33-year-old Saudi dermatologist, who is married to a German man of Lebanese descent. The couple, who met at a medical training course in Hamburg, faced opposition from Makkawi’s family.
Makkawi’s father, who has worked abroad for many years, accepted her choice. However, her relatives opposed the idea and still do so. Something she thinks will never end.
‘It’s the relatives who can be the greatest source of pressure on such a marriage. However, the actual decision lies with the person getting married and her parents,’ she said.