SAUDI WOMEN MARRIED TO NON-SAUDI MEN FACE A MYRIAD OF PROBLEMS
MAKKAH, 20 August 2006
Marriages between Saudi women and non-Saudi men produce a number of problems. Questions relating to the success and advisability of such marriages are common all over the Kingdom. According to some, the children of those marriages are doomed to a bleak future. Many people question the kind of education and jobs available to such children and ask whether they can grow up as integrated citizens.
The fact is that many Saudis take a negative view about Saudi women marrying non-Saudi men and they invariably cite examples of foreign fathers leaving the country and abandoning their wives and children.
By the same token, it should not be assumed that marriages between Saudi men and foreign women are absolutely trouble-free. As a matter of fact there are many factors instrumental in the failure of such marriages including different backgrounds, cultures and languages.
Umm Muhammad was married to a non-Saudi Arab. In the case of a Saudi woman marrying a non-Saudi, the children take the father’s nationality. In the case of a Saudi father and a non-Saudi mother, the children have Saudi nationality.
Because she found it difficult to marry a Saudi, Umm Muhammad quickly accepted the offer of a foreigner to marry her. “I sacrificed everything for him. I paid all that I had in order to make this marriage work. Instead, he betrayed me, ran away with all my money and returned to his home country.”
Heartbroken and despondent, Umm Muhammad says she feels her life is absolutely shattered and has difficulties living on what little money remains with her.
Umm Sara, 35, has been married to a Syrian man for 15 years and has three daughters and two sons. “The biggest problem I have is wondering what will happen to my children in the future.” She said she does not know what future awaits them when they graduate from high school; she believes her children should be treated as the children of Saudi men and non-Saudi women.
“My children were born and brought up in this country and their loyalty is to the Kingdom and its people. They want to be a part of the development process of the country they were born in. I think it’s unfair for them to be sidelined in such a way.’
Tahani is a Sudanese girl whose mother is Saudi. She said she only realized the difference between her and other people when she went to university. Tahani said she even finds entering university using a special card, which instructs officials to treat people like her as Saudi citizens, rather difficult.
“Sometimes the card doesn’t help. I consider myself a Saudi because I was born and raised in this country and have never traveled abroad. Employers never consider me Saudi; in their eyes I’m Sudanese. This has troubled me quite a lot; I’m just a foreigner living in a country I consider home.”
Wedad Sindi, a teacher, said that there were many things that drive Saudis to marry foreigners. Wedad blames factors such as high dowries and difficult conditions set by the families of Saudi women that drive Saudis to marry foreign women.
Wedad added that children born from such marriages end up becoming victims of the society they live in and face problems relating to education and finding jobs. “This is a problem experienced by Saudi women who are married to non-Saudis. What will happen to those Saudi women if they divorce their husbands? The fate of children in such cases is uncertain.”
Nura Abdul Sattar, a psychiatrist, said that Saudi men drive women to marry non-Saudis by refusing to marry them. “Saudi men refuse to marry Saudi women for many reasons including unemployment, high dowries or because Saudi women are working in undesirable jobs such as nurses or in private companies. At the same time marriages between Saudi women and non-Saudi men always end tragically because of cultural differences. What will happen to a Saudi wife if the husband decides to return home? What will happen to the children of such couples when they grow up?”