Saudi Women Married To Non-Saudi Men In Dire Straits

photocreditarabnewsSaudi Women Married To Foreigners Urge Govt To Solve Their Problems
Arab News | Jeddah
6 March 2015

Ali is sure that he will pack his bags to leave the Kingdom at the end of this year and head to the United States or a European country to enroll in the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, where the Ministry of Education will take care of his expenses for the whole period of his studies. His cousin Basem is packing too, but to go to Egypt to join military service, now that he is turned 18.

For some people this can sound strange, but the reality is that Ali was born to two Saudi parents, while Basem has a Saudi mother and an Egyptian father. Their paths will eventually separate, and Basem’s situation (having a Saudi mother and a foreign father) can’t even be compared to the years before the late King Abdullah issued decrees giving rights to Saudi women who are married to foreigners.

Many Saudi women married to foreigners said the law still doesn’t fathom their situation and hasn’t done them justice, just because they are women, which increases their burden. Many women in this situation claim that the common thought in the Kingdom is that they are being punished for marrying a foreigner.

The demeaning glances, even though they are less intense now, are accompanied by verbal comments, women say. Most of them who made the decision of marrying foreigners looked for family stability, which should be guaranteed by the system for everyone in the country, whether man or woman.

The number of Saudi females married to non-Saudis currently stands at 700,000, representing around 10 percent of the overall population. The Ministry of Justice issued a report in 2012 stating that the number of Saudi women who marry foreigners is on the rise.

The report revealed that 13,117 Saudi women married foreigners in 2012, a much higher number compared to the 2,583 Saudi men who married foreign women the same year.

Rawan, who married a non-Saudi in 2008, describes her life as chaotic. Her suffering is embodied in the fact that she has to cross the border to renew the visa. She often pictures herself as lost between borders, living in a tent in the desert. “I can’t count the number of times I traveled from Saudi Arabia to Dubai, to renew my husband’s visa, under the title husband to Saudi citizen and the father of a Saudi citizen,” she said.

During her pregnancy, she had to travel to Dubai for one day, and it was impossible to board the plane when she was eight months’ pregnant. “I had no choice but to go through land ports and then to the embassy. This coincided with the Haj season, and the embassy doesn’t renew visas at that particular time,” she added.

Rawan’s suffering wasn’t limited to issuing a visa, which can only be renewed three times, she also fought to register her son in kindergarten. “I suffered while looking for a kindergarten prepared to take my child without a residency visa, and all of them stressed the importance of bringing his residency ID before he finishes kindergarten,” she added.

She describes her situation as sad and funny at the same time, pointing to the guardianship issue. “Before my father died, he was my guardian, and now I am married but my brother is my guardian. He is the one who finalizes my travel permit procedures, not my husband.

After I got married, I received a marriage contract with the following statement written on the periphery, ‘It is essential to go to Civil Status Department to transfer her name to the husband’s register.’ When I went to Civil Status Department, they told me I need to bring my husband’s residency visa number to be able to transfer my name to my husband’s register,” she said.

Rawan’s suffering echoes with the other 700,000 Saudi women married to foreigners. They said decisions issued by the late King Abdullah works in their favor and eases their suffering, but the system doesn’t consider them as citizens. For these women, one of their saddest realities, is the fact that they can’t give their children the nationality even though they live in their country.

In recent years, Saudi children born to foreign fathers were able to study in government schools and universities, but they won’t be allowed to enroll in the scholarship program. They have the right to work and be treated like Saudis when calculating Saudization rates, but at the end of the day he isn’t a citizen, unlike Saudi children born to a foreign mother and a Saudi father. They have the right to get aid from the labor Ministry’s Hafiz program, but they don’t have the right to receive nationality, in addition to the problems surrounding the iqama.

Photo Credit: Arab News

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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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