Girl’s Quest After Twenty Years
By Nuha Adlan
Arab News | Riyadh
10 March 2009
It was at a family gathering when Tarfa’s life changed forever. One of Tarfa’s sisters accidentally revealed a secret: that Tarfa’s Indian mother did not die but was deported back to India around 20 years ago.
Tarfa Abdul Rahman Abu Julai, 21, was told that her mother died after giving birth to her. However, in high school she knew that her mother is believed to have left the country when she was a newborn.
“I’ve been told that my mother is dead,” she said. “However, knowing that she is still alive makes me want to know about her,” Tarfa told Arab News in a phone interview. “I wish to see her, I really pray to God day and night to meet her again.”
Children of non-Saudi mothers living outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been focused on by many organizations in the Kingdom, like Awasser. In the case of Tarfa, Awasser’s job becomes very difficult because channels of tracing the mother are not so easy.
“It is commonly known that the Saudi father usually abandon his kids and leaves them to face their lives on their own without any recognition in Saudi Arabia,” said a human rights official who insisted on anonymity. “The cases of Saudi sons or daughters looking for their mothers who were deported is rare but not hard to be believed.”
He also pointed out that mixed marriages have cost Saudis a lot on all levels. “Some Saudis go outside the Kingdom and seek matchmakers for short-term marriages. This ends in a struggle to fight with the system here inside the Kingdom to acknowledge the children if there were any by the Ministry of Interior and grant them the right of citizenship,” the official said. “Children are usually the ones to pay these expensive prices, by striving to get a good education or medical treatment, if not trying hard to look for the parents.”
Tarfa was born in Riyadh Medical Complex 21 years ago. Her mother was named Aysha Muhammad Omar Abdul Kareem, an Indian national who married Tarfa’s father, Abdul Rahman Abu Julai in Mumbai on Feb. 22, 1987, in Dar Al-Qadaa. The sheikh who did the matchmaking and wrote the wedding contract is named Judge Muhammed Saeed Shilmai, according to the marriage certificates left for Tarfa.
Tarfa has produced a voice tape of her mother to the embassy to help the mission in its search. According to the embassy’s welfare official, the woman’s dialect seems to be from Bangalore.
“We are trying to contact local authorities in India to locate the mother,” said Muhammad Anwar, an Indian Embassy official. “We are trying hard to locate the mother, based on the information in her passport, as it shows in the passport she was living in Mumbai. We’ve been provided with a tape and the dialect of the woman speaking is from Bangalore … we have wrong addresses and that’s what makes the search process harder.”
According to Tarfa, her father, who is now in his 90s, married Aysha, who was then 25, while he was in India then brought her to Saudi Arabia under his sponsorship. They lived together for a year with his previous wife who was sick.
Tarfa’s mother then decided that she cannot live with Tarfa’s father and told him that she wanted to go back to India. Tarfa was only 52 days old and the mother also wanted to take Tarfa with her.
“My father agreed to get her the divorce and got her papers finalized. They told her that they will bring me to India after a month of her departure and she believed them,” Tarfa said. “They gave my mother addresses and numbers but they were all wrong and vague … she lost contact and lost her and now I know nothing about her.”
After her mother’s departure, her stepmother nursed her as a baby, but she died when Tarfa was only 8 years old.
“They say that my stepmother took care of me although she was paralyzed and in a wheelchair … Basically this is the reason why my father searched for another wife.”
Tarfa who is originally from Al-Hasa is now studying in Imam Muhammad Islamic University and looking forward to a good future, and to be reunited with her mother. “I’d really love to know if she is still alive or not,” Tarfa said. “I admit that I am better off than many other people. Although my father is too old to take care of me, I have five sisters and three brothers who are all treating me very well,” she added. “I still pray to God to find anything, anything about my mother, although it’s been years but I still need her with me.”
In the search of her mother Tarfa was only left with a passport, wedding and divorce certificates, an old black and white picture, a tape and a heart full of hope and faith in God.
“It can be possible if her mother is alive they can meet again,” she said. “Part of me is looking for her, I wish we can reunite again, I always pray to God for that to happen.”