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 DUROCHER (NATHALIE’S MOTHER)
“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.
‘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.
SAEED AL-SHAHRANI (NATHALIE’S HUSBAND)
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.
—–END OF SAUDI GAZETTE ARTICLE—–