How can a father put his head on the pillow and sleep at night without knowing how his daughter is doing? From the sound of how the father treated the mother, the daughter is probably better off without him in her life anyway and Allah knows best. Put these dead-beat daddys in jail until they pay up! Tara Umm Omar
Wife, Daughter Abandoned In Egypt To Fend For Themselves
By WALAA HAWARI
May 19, 2010
Arab News | Cairo
Above: Reem and her mother Hanan in their ramshackle apartment in a poor Cairo suburb. (AN photo)
CAIRO: It is difficult to imagine a young girl from a wealthy country like Saudi Arabia living in this dilapidated, old and foul smelling building located in one of Cairo’s poor suburbs.
Born to a Saudi father who does not care about her, eight-year-old Reem — who lives in conditions that are far below average — has been left alone to face her unknown future with her helpless Egyptian mother.
Reem’s father was in his 50s when he married her 20-year-old mother. “He paid my father around SR7,000 and took me to Saudi Arabia to live with him. I suffered abuse at the hands of his family, including his two previous wives, their children, and his brothers and sisters,” said Reem’s mother, Hanan.
Hanan was constantly abused by Reem’s father, who used to tell her he only bought her to the Kingdom to work as a housemaid. Hanan also lost twins in a miscarriage she suffered as a result of the abuse. It was on this occasion that she was left alone in a hospital for over eight days.
In spite of the abuse, Hanan remained with her husband as her father was sick and her family was far too poor to help if she opted to return to Egypt. “When my father passed away, he permitted me to attend the funeral. I was finally able to visit my family after three years,” said Hanan.
After arriving in Cairo with Reem, who was 40 days old at the time, Hanan did not hear from her then husband, whose name she chooses not to mention, for four years. Nor did she receive any financial help during that time.
After four years, Hanan received a telephone call from Reem’s father who told her she was now divorced and that he would send her money. “He made a promise that he has not kept. He left me and his daughter burdened on my brother who already has a large family and earns very little,” said Hanan.
She added that having been advised by people, she went to the Saudi Embassy to claim her rights. The Saudi Embassy, she said, was very helpful and contacted her ex-husband and asked him to meet them.
“This was the first time he saw Reem. All he did was pat her on the head like a stranger,” said Hanan with tears in her eyes. He then promised embassy officials to send regular money, a promise that he has again failed to keep.
“Although the Saudi Embassy is playing the role of a father and doing what it can to support us, we live with many difficulties. We share two rooms along with my mother, my brother and his family of five,” said Hanan, adding that all she wants is a room for herself and Reem to live decently.
Reem is not alone. According to officials at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo, Saudi men often visit Egypt to marry poor, young women, many of them from villages, without any serious intention to set up proper homes. Under the supervision of the Saudi Embassy in Cairo, AWASSER, a non-government body that cares for Saudi children abroad, gives children like Reem a monthly stipend of around SR500 and covers expenses to send them to private schools as they are treated as foreigners and do not qualify for places in state schools.
According to the embassy’s Citizens Affair office in Cairo, there are 250 children like Reem and there is no way to make fathers commit themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities. The majority of these marriages take place without the knowledge of the Saudi Embassy.
The marriages are also not registered officially and are simply “urfi” marriage contracts (or nikah), which meet Islamic requirements but not the requirements of the state.
Hassan Al-Najjar, an Egyptian lawyer, said Egypt’s judiciary recognizes “urfi” marriages, something that was not the case before. As a result of the change, Al-Najjar and other lawyers are trying to introduce legislation limiting the occurrence of such marriages.
In the meantime, despite her young age, Reem senses the awkwardness of her situation and expresses both her fear for the future and her heartfelt longing to have a loving father. “I just wish he would call me once and ask about me, and send me some clothes and toys like other children,” said Reem, while looking out from the window of the top-floor room in this dilapidated Cairo suburb.
Photo Credit: Arab News