Update: Nathalie Morin, Canadian Wife Of A Saudi Held Against Her Will

FHWS first posted on Nathalie Morin in January 2009, Canadian Wife Of A Saudi Held Against Her Will which was followed by another post in April 2009, Canadian Mom Accuses Saudi Son-In Law Of Beating Her Daughter.

It is often said that there are two sides to a story but in Nathalie Morin’s case, I think it involves three sides to her story: Nathalie, her mother and her husband. Not knowing the three of them personally, it is not easy to discern whether 1. Nathalie really is an abused wife (the video of her reported bruises have no face to go with the body) or a daughter swayed by a zealous mother 2. Nathalie’s mother is trying to force a separation of her daughter and husband simply because she dislikes her living in Saudi Arabia and her marriage to a Saudi (Saudi Gazette reported that Durocher criticized the veil worn by Saudi women and said “This is an indication that women in that country are helpless and I do not approve of my daughter living in that community,”) or she has genuine concern for the welfare of her daughter and grandchildren while exaggerating about their living conditions. 3. Nathalie’s husband is hiding the truth about his abuse or he’s the victim of character assassination.
On 16 April 2009, The Star published the transcript of a call purportedly between Natalie and her mother, Johanne Durocher. She is remorseful at deciding to live in Saudi Arabia and admits that it was a mistake that she needs to resolve. She details the illnesses of her two sons, being physically abused, locked in the house without a key, her telephone calls being limited and conversations being monitored by her husband. All she wants to do is to return to Canada with her three children to give them a better life.

Natalie was interviewed by Al-Riyadh in which she clarified that she is not being held hostage in her home, in stark contrast to the recording presented by The Star. She also said she is remaining in Saudi Arabia because of her husband and children. Her life is stable and she lives with her family in Dammam after relocating from Jubail which is being hailed as a good step and important factor in bringing stability to her family. There she resides in a large house and is comfortably happy in this city. She has visited her husband’s hometown in Bisha in order for her children to get to know their relatives. Her passport is with the Saudi Human Rights Office and one of its lawyers confirms that she is free to travel to Canada with the only drawback being that her husband will not allow the children to accompany her. However she has no desire to visit Canada except with her husband and children. She has instructed her mother to leave her alone with her husband. Despite all of the difficulties in her marriage, she does not regret marrying her husband. She is far from external problems where she and her husband can sustain their marriage without outside interference.

I can’t help but wonder, did Nathalie give this interview while under the watchful gaze of her husband and sugar coated her true situation out of fear? Or is this the real Natalie coming through?

Johanne categorically denies that Nathalie and Saeed Al-Shahrani are married. I find it hard to believe that they are not at least Islamically married. She supposedly left the following comment on a blog post at Chasing Jannah, Natalie Morin: A Canadian Captive In Saudi Arabia?,

“First of all, Nathalie never married Saeed. I know it’s hard to believe, but she never married him. I have the document, the mariage authorization, delevry from the interior ministry in april 2003. At the same time she receive a visa for go in Saudi.”

With all due respect, I think Johanne may not understand or is not knowledgeable of the Saudi marriage permission procedure. The marriage permission document is evidence that Saudi Arabia has approved an already existing marriage between a Saudi and non-Saudi or in the case of a couple not already married, to get married Islamically and/or civilly. In the former scenario, the Saudi would have submitted a marriage certificate when he/she first applied for permission with the Ministry of Interior. Then there is the fact that Nathalie received a visa to Saudi Arabia at the same time. From personal experience and those of others, whenever the Saudi Embassy abroad wants to issue a visa to the spouse of a non-Saudi to enter Saudi Arabia, a marriage certificate is usually part of the required paperwork to complete the process. The Saudi government is very strict about this measure as witnessed by the fact that it is against the law for an unmarried man and woman to be alone together in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, I suspect that they are married rather than living together unmarried in Saudi with the full knowledge of the Saudi government.
Johanne Durocher is indignant that the Canadian is not doing enough to assist Natalie. CBC News described her as being “bitterly disappointed by the government’s efforts to repatriate her daughter. ‘The government had important elements to negotiate for Nathalie, but didn’t use them,’ she said”.
Has the Canadian government been lax in their attempts to help Nathalie’s case? Have they exerted all of their political muscle effectively enough to repatriate Nathalie and her children? In my opinion, the Canadian government has limited influence when it comes to Saudi laws which protect the rights of the Saudi man and his Saudi children more than the non-Saudi woman. For example, a review of America’s diplomatic attempts to rescue non-Saudi women married to Saudis and their children from Saudi Arabia have yielded few success stories even though it is a country with super power status and major influence.

Patricia Roush is one such story and she laments at the inadequacy of US officials on her website, Patricia Roush: At Any Price,

‘Year after year, Roush – who returned to San Francisco from Chicago in 1989, has tried to recover her children through official channels. Instead, she says, “She encountered a federal bureaucracy whose insensitivity was rivaled only by its incompetence. “How can these people at the State Department sleep at night?” she wonders’ 

Most of the time the non-Saudi women must either accept grudging defeat and exit Saudi Arabia without her children as in the case with Nzingha’s friend,

‘My heart ached as this mother, my friend, sat in a slump with tears in her eyes and said “I don’t see why I’m the one who has to leave my children.” No amount of reasoning from any Saudi official can justify the sacrifices of a mother caught in these situations. While there is some hope that a Saudi woman will have some rights to see her children, even if it is only on weekends she at least can remain in the same country. A foreign woman, having no family support in Saudi and no legal right to be in the country besides her husbands sponsorship has to leave the country. Be it in a desperate attempt to save herself from a bad situation or by the force of a husband who no longer wants to remain married to her.’

Or they fight back with a vengeance, hiring a private investigator to track their children down and an ex-commando to help recapture them. And then there is the daring escape from Saudi Arabia successfully executed a 13 year old girl, Dria Davis, engineered on her own with the assistance of some men within the country. She resorted to this after the alleged lack of interest in her case by the US Congress, State Department and White House. 

“Their response — as in other cases involving the kidnapping of American children to Muslim countries that have refused to sign the Hague Convention, an international treaty requiring signatory countries to obey child-custody orders — is that the United States must honor Muslim law. Under that law fathers always get custody regardless of U.S. court orders; women and children have very few rights.” (A Great Escape! by Timothy W. Maier of Insight On The News)

As long as the children remain in Saudi Arabia and the father is adamant in retaining their custody, it is a battle that can prove difficult to win. Unless you can buy a Saudi man’s children for $300,000 but Saeed Al-Shahrani will not put a price on his childrens’ heads.


Faraz Omar, editor at Saudi Gazette, explained to me that the below article was originally by Al-Watan and translated from Arabic to English by Saudi Gazette. It includes an interview of Saeed Al-Shahrani which I have chosen to excerpt to show his side of the story.

9 November 2009
Shahrani had told the Arabic daily Al-Watan last week that his wife Morin has no intention of leaving the Kingdom after she had converted to Islam. “How can my wife be the victim of any torture or detention when she is currently learning Arabic at a specialized society and speaks with her mother on the phone daily?” Shahrani told Al-Watan this week. “She also speaks to Canadian TV channels.” Shahrani said that he received a phone call from the attorney of his mother-in-law to request permission for his children to travel with their mother as a showcase of the tolerance of Islam. “Whether or not I allow my children to leave Saudi Arabia is a matter which concerns both myself and my wife only,” he said. “Besides, I am entitled to keep my children in my custody according to Shariah, and I have not prevented my wife from staying with them.” He added that he offered to meet with the attorney at the Canadian embassy in Riyadh to reach a solution on the issue of letting his children travel.  “He (the attorney) declined, saying that the embassy is considered as Canadian soil and that he is prepared to meet with me anywhere else under Saudi sponsorship.” Shahrani also said the attorney hinted that his mother-in-law is prepared to pay any amount in return for allowing her grandchildren to leave Saudi Arabia. 

“I have never asked for money in return for giving up custody of my children as she alleged,” Shahrani told the TVR Canadian television channel. “I would never give up my children if Canada pays me its entire wealth,” he said. Shahrani had told Al-Watan that Canadian media is spreading false information inspired by the mother’s imagination.

He said his mother-in-law has been trying to drive a wedge between him and his wife ever since she visited the Kingdom two years ago. He said she was not convinced with her daughter’s embracing Islam and wearing Hijab, even though the marriage is 7 years old. His wife once gave in to her mother and left the Kingdom quietly, only to return on her own two months later. Shahrani said Durocher had told TV channels in Canada that she was going to try to pull her daughter out of Saudi Arabia. She also fabricated pictures of his two children to convince people that they lived in misery.

The husband said that his wife married him in Canada and came to Saudi Arabia to embrace Islam with conviction, which gives him the right to run his relationship with his wife and the life of his kids in accordance with Islamic principles. In addition, his children, under the Kingdom’s regulations, are Saudi.


No matter which side of the story one may believe, we all agree with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal when he said that this is a complex family issue. (Reported by Sarah Abdullah of Arab News, Husband Demands $300, 000 To “Free” Canadian Wife, Kids)




Published by

Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

22 thoughts on “Update: Nathalie Morin, Canadian Wife Of A Saudi Held Against Her Will”

  1. >May Allah swt heal all those involved, rectify their affairs and improve their conditions. ameen.Abuse damages a person's psyche and it makes very difficult for those looking in to realize what is going on. I am confused because every story seems to contradict the other. I am making dua for justice and mercy on all those involved.


  2. >Qusay- It is mind boggling. I assume you had a hard time figuring out which story to believe.Tuttie- Ameen. Welcome back to the blog. One of the reasons why I wanted to construct the post this way is to show the contradictions with each side of the story. If you notice in Nathalie's phone call, she allegedly claims that her husband watches/listens to her while she is on the phone. If this is truly the case then it could explain how she gave the Al-Riyadh reporter a sugar-coated description of her life. Was this out of fear of her husband as he listened to her give the interview and saying nothing out of the ordinary to avoid abuse? Allah knows best.The mother visited Saudi Arabia and was able to see Nathalie's living arrangement, etc. But I'm concerned about her perception as a non-Muslim with a different mentality (as she says about Canadians). Through her eyes, she could see something that's normal and expected to us Muslims living here but to her as a non-Muslim and coming from a different world must have appeared abnormal to her. This is why I think there many have been some false alarm and exaggeration to her side of the story. If the husband is an abuser as accused, then he may well have two sides to his personality. Abusers appear to others with one side, totally different than the side that they show to their victims. Thus he would have acted differently in front of Nathalie's mother during her visit as well as deny his abuse to the media outlets and governmental authorities. Chiara- You remind me that abusers can be good liars, compulsively and pathologically. They are also smooth talkers and can negotiate their way out of blame with their victims. Can you say mind control? Unfortunately, the kids could be used as a way of controlling Nathalie to get what he wants her to do…especially since she seems to love them so dearly.


  3. >Caraboska- According to the Saudi Gazette's translation of the Al-Watan article, Ms. Durocher was quoted as having said "On receiving offers to smuggle her and her children out of Saudi Arabia through the GRC Canadian Intelligence service, Nathalie said that talking to Saudi newspapers did not yield any results."


  4. >Hmmmm… I have the same beliefs about this story as you do, Tara. I Blogged about this 3 times, sent a PM to the brother of Nathalie Morin and got nothing back except for the one response by Mme. Durocher. … ???


  5. >Aalia- Welcome to the blog and thanks for commenting. To be fair, it could be any reason why you received no answer from the brother. I'm trying to give the benefit of a doubt to all three individuals. I do hope they arrive at a resolution soon insha'Allah.


  6. >To me it seems that there is so much discussion from the husband, mother, and Natalie, but what about the kids?I have been reading and can't seem to find even a common ground that these people could meet on.She was a young girl, and she made unwise decisions (she says that in an interview), I think everyone is lying, and yet, there is a bit of truth in what's being said from all sides. The poor children will suffer in this tug of war, and I don't know, but what kind of relationship did she have with her mother before? It doesn't seem that it was a good one.I would believe that life hasn't been that liberating for Natalie in SA and I think this could be a huge issue in the marriage…she was so young going into a culture, religion, marriage, and parenting (almost simultaneously). It's sad.


  7. >As Salaam AlaikumMasha'Allah nice article…Having married similarly, i would say keep the In Laws out of your married life. In multi cultural marriages most often the inlaws are not welcoming to the fact that their children are adopting a way of life other than their own, like my inlaws don't love my wife wearing niqaab, etc and my mom wouldn't like my kids talking English and my self eating waffles/pancakes for break fast, etc… So yes both in-laws are not good for our marriage and we keep them at arms length. So its better to keep the in laws at arms length. Having said that however communication lines must be kept open to the inlaws (by son-in-law and daughter). After all they have every right to be concerned about their children. So you must keep them informed.And secondly when one decides to take a foreign wife, one must understand that you would be implicitly expected to provide for your wife the same standard of life she had been living in the west. Of course during the romantic court ship moments your western fiancee would agree to live with you in poverty and would say all she wants in life is only you, she may also love to wear niqaab, follow saudi/islamic customs, etc… please don't take these statements which you hear from your fiancee at face value, things really change when the romance mist dies off and family realities take precedence.Also i don't want to sound racist but recently i have been seeing only the Caucasians among the western wives failing to make a successful marriage here. BTW it is well known and documented how different races/ ethnicities are raised in the west, so may be thats one reason for these break ups. However thats one factor which Saudis/non-westerners must take into account before courtship. I have my sources only from reading blogs and news so may be i could be wrong as well :)Also Saudi's and non-westerners must understand falling in love with any girl may be natural but seeking out specifically only a Caucasian American girl to fall in love is never a wise decision and BTW i don't think its worth the risk after reading the blogs you find in the blogosphere.And last but not the least the ladies from the west must understand, that dreams of living like a princess in the desert always comes with realities that you may have to confront. Even Princess Diana couldn't make it in the Buckingham Palace. You may dream of a stay at home wife who could go at a shopping spree at your husbands money, but yes even American Express cards come with a credit limit, remember that. And as a Saudi's / non-western wife you had be expected to do certain things and follow certain customs which may be alien to you, remember that too…


  8. >Abu Abdullah- Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. Thank you and welcome back to the blog. Excellent advice you gave based on your own personal experience. I have to agree about keeping the in-laws out of your marriage as much as feasible. Know when to welcome them into your life and when to keep them at a distance.According to your observations of these blogs, why do you think it’s the Caucasian women who seem to have a hard time adjusting to life in Saudi Arabia?


  9. >SubhanAllah, seems like a very complex situation and hard to figure out what the real situation is. Naturally as women we want to believe the wife and protect her in case she is really been abused and held hostage. It's hard to get a real idea of the situation without actually being able to meet the wife. Perhaps, there is some exaggeration going on because the mother after all was able to visit her daughter which would not have been possible if the husband wanted to keep his wife a prisoner. Such stories also add to misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims.InshaAllah, I too hope they are able to resolve the misunderstandings and contrasting views for the benefit of the children.


  10. >Asalaamu `alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatoEveryone –I talked to Johanna Durocher last night on the phone, and she sounded convinced that her daughter and 3 grandchildren (particularily Samir, the oldest) were in danger. She then e-mailed me pictures of Samir with strange brusing on his neck, including a medical report saying that he has abnormal behaviour and may have been sexually assaulted.Ya Allah — this is really crushing because we don't know what is %100 going on yet if everything Johanne says is true then what can WE do?!…


  11. >Aalia – SubhanAllah, that's really unfortunate. I hope the Canadian authorities take action in that case because it has come down to the safety of the children.Chiara – very true. And unfortunate as well. There are good Muslim Saudis but obviously it's the bad ones that get the most publicity which reflects badly on the entire community.


  12. >Chiara- Thanks for sharing your hypotheses. I hope FHWS has an impact on keeping life/marriages in Saudi Arabia in a realistic light for future wives of Saudis and those wives who have recently arrived in Saudi Arabia. Insha'Allah Abu Abdullah will answer my question as soon as its convenient for him. Single4now- It would probably be ideal if Nathalie can be seen without her husband being present and perhaps with a promise that the concerned authority would not divulge her confidings to him. Alia- That is terrible! I really hope it is not true knowing how photos can be easily photo-shopped and documents faked. Did you ask her when the photos were taken and who gave them to her if she didn't take them? Who administered the medical report and how did they have access to Samir? My suggestion would be for the mother to forward all evidence to Nathalie's lawyer (or any lawyer) at the Human Rights Office in Saudi Arabia. You should also ask her if she has already done that.


  13. >Chiara- He doesn't have to know that she gave an interview. She could have went shopping in the mall and took the kids to play where a female reporter could meet up with her. That scenario would work only if he trusts her to go out by herself.


  14. >My family and office duties have been keeping me away from blogs for some time :)Back to my original comment…Well my reason for singling out Caucasian women was purely based on the incidents reported in the media and reading the blogs across.And why is this happening only with them?Well we all know social skills are very much required in any marriage, and much much more in mixed marriage.Non-Caucasians in the west typically come with diverse cultural backgrounds and to make it a successful life they always adopt themselves to the cultural ethos of the majority west, and so do their children and so on. Like often you would find non-Caucasians having a separate distinct cultural family life at home and a different cultural life outside the home. So non-caucasians always try to adopt to situations.But on the contrary Caucasians never had to go across the assimilation process back home as opposed to non-Caucasian americans, so they do not have the social skills in the first place to adopt to others. So they find it difficult to make it here.Also it is typically Caucasians who love Fox news, and other conservative media.If you would also get the statistics of the blogs by "American Woman married to Saudis" you had find almost all of them have terrible issues with Saudi Arabia, and even those who live here, live unhappily. But about those who are non-Caucasians married to Saudis or living in Saudi Arabia (like my own case, and many others we have met in Riyadh) we really don't have any issues in our married life :)At the end of the day my comment is purely based on my intuitions and my reading list, so i could be wrong, and i wish i had be wrong, so don't hold me to it 🙂 But the statistics however show a very high degree of Caucasians failing to make it here sadly…


  15. >Abu Abdullah- Welcome back! Thank you for taking the time to explicate your opinion on Caucasians married to Saudis. Could it also be that these Caucasian women have long been a majority in their country and not used to being a minority here in KSA? What I mean by that is, they can't adapt well to the stresses that goes along with their change of status. Culture is static, it's always changing. If they are so unbending with their own culture while living amidst a different culture, they will have problems assimilating. Compromise is better than resistance.Black White Man is a multi-racial American blogger who has spent time abroad in foreign countries. He also gives some good advice on assimilating into the culture of the host country…http://blackwhiteman.com The family of your sister-in-law's husband must be supportive of her when she gets into arguments with him and mediate between them in her defense. Otherwise if they were impartial to him…I don't think she'd seek refuge with them. But you know their story better than me. Anyway, there are various other factors that non-Saudi wives of Saudi have to contend with that I listed in this post…http://taraummomar.blogspot.com/2009/04/divorce-big-d-word.html


  16. >Chiara- Correction, I meant culture is NOT static (its always changing). My understanding is that assimilation is involuntary. Individuals allow their original cultural identity to be overtaken by the majority and dominant culture. I mean that in a positive way, they desire it in order to blend in and be accepted. Example: some of the non-Saudi women married to Saudis learn Arabic, adopt the Saudi way of dressing, eat/cook Saudi food, socialize with Saudis to learn more about their culture, etc. They are probably the most at peace with being a minority in Saudi Arabia. Acculturation can sometimes be imposed albeit in the process of assimilating. The minority has the ability to adapt to the majority culture while retaining their original cultural identity. But when acculturation clashes with the minority's cultural norms, it can be upsetting (acculturative stress). Example: Some of the non-Saudi women married to Saudis do not wish to learn Arabic and when they encounter situations where they can't function in English (or whatever their mother tongue is)…they experience frustration. This is especially if they live in a region of Saudi Arabia where they will find a small international non-Arabic speaking population. As far as dress, she will find the mandatory abayah the most irritating and complain about it non-stop (tripping up on the hem or black fabric being too hot). Saudi food is not all that bad but if she insists on always cooking American or the food of her native country…she may find ingredients scarce or pay a pretty penny to acquire them in Danube or Tamimi or have them shipped from her country to Saudi Arabia. Oh and what if she or her husband can't afford it? Her homesickness is gonna be compounded! And just socializing with Americans (or her fellow countrywomen living in KSA) would put her at a disadvantage for ever understanding Saudis and why/how they do the things they do.I think a balance between the two is needed to achieve a medium of contentness with being a minority. The person should obviously not be forced or compelled to change their identity overnight but should be encouraged to gradually compromise and make some minor sacrifices as necessary to make living in a foreign country less stressful.


  17. >Just out of curiosity, when you refer to "caucasian" American, do you mean light-skinned? As a light-skinned American, I have had to adjust to many different cultures in part because of how and where I was raised within the U.S. I was taught to value other cultures, and don't seem to have a problem fitting in with different cultural groups. If I am in another country, I do my best to understand and respect the cultural values found there. I would appreciate it if stereotypes based on skin color would be reconsidered. I do not relate to "white" "black" "hispanic" and/or "asian", but rather as a bit of every culture found within the US making me rather…um…American. Just wanted to point this out to possibly open your mind to new ideas and views on what you may view as "white"/"caucasian" Americans.I miss the culture, food, etc. of every culture I have been exposed to in one way or another, and am honestly not that fond of typical American food. (Mexican food is another story…;) ) But maybe I am, in fact, a strange one….?In this scenario I also agree that it is hard to tell who is telling the truth. I hope that the matter is resolved in a positive way soon!


  18. >Strangeone- Welcome to FHWS and thanks for commenting. Not sure which one of the commentators you are addressing but I'll speak for myself. When I was referring to Caucasian, I meant White. I mean, that's usually what the term means anyway 🙂


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