Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Confusing Rights with Pragmatism?

Saudi Family Faces Threats to Funding & Family is a story which ran two weeks ago by the Barometer about a Saudi family consisting of husband, wife, a 4 y.o. and a baby who is due soon. Shortly after the family arrived in Corvallis, Oregon, a physical quarrel took place between the husband and wife, resulting in the involvement of American authorities and a warning by the Saudi embassy to terminate the scholarship. The wife, who is the only one interviewed in the story, remains in the US while her husband returns home. She is requesting her “right” to pursue her scholarship, divorce her husband, keep her children and be allowed to work with her F1 visa so she can support her family. She is also seeking “asylum” from the American government.

Two days ago, the same story was forward to me by an American friend. She asked hubby and me if we and other Saudi students can support this family in a time of hardship. I read, and reread the story, without being able to make up my mind about it. It is clearly biased, and takes the stand point of the wife alone. We do not get to hear much about the husband who already left to Saudi Arabia, nor is the Embassy giving out any statements because the information they have, as they were quoted, is what the wife had told them.

I could not help but wonder, is the wife truly a victim here? Is she asking for her rights, or is she a pragmatist trying to get the benefit out of Saudi and American system both at the same time?

15 comments:

American Bedu said...

Hi Aisha,

I had not heard of this incident in press reporting but guess that is not surprising given my location. I can just imagine though how such a story can get picked up and carried in the US media though.

I applaud your questions and hopeful that the system will do its due diligence. It would not simply award asylum without proof of a strong and justifying need.

Did you think it was unusual for the Saudi man to return to the Kingdom without his children though?

This case will certainly raise many questions and whatever the outcome have resounding implicationg for both Saudi students in the States and perhaps for Saudi women wishing to study outside of the Kingdom too.

Regards,
Carol

Saudi in US said...

Aysha,

Yes we are getting one side of the story, but the husband could have stayed and presented his side. I do not know his reasoning for not staying, but his absence does not look good especially considering he has children and there is a police case in the work here. If he was innocent why would he risk missing court dates and be presumed guilty?

This women does not have any logical incentive to stay in the US with the exception of protection. Her job prospects, being an immigrant, are not good (at least in the short term). If she receives asylum she may never be able to go back to Saudi and live with her family. Because of all the above I am leaning towards believing her.

Is there any advocate organization looking after her? May be they can provide more answers and also help people who are willing to provide some funding to support her feel more comfortable.

Aysha said...

Carol and Saudi in US, you bring up an important point: why did the husband leave? SACM warns students that they should stay away from trouble with the authority, but in case trouble happens they will not get involved, and will only provide a return ticket.

Did the husband leave out of fear or upon the recommendation of someone? Does fear justify leaving famiy behind?

The way I read it so far, is that the family arrived in the States with a troubled marriage. It is brought up that divorce was a recurring discussion even back home. Both spouses have probably had a long time to draw out case scenarios and develop certain fears (eg, loss of children).

A violent spouse will probably give out clear elevation in temper signs which after many years of marriage the other spouse will clearly detect. The wife has high blood pressure. Is that a new medical condition or did she have it through out her pregnancy? Could her high blood pressure have influenced her interaction with her husband and her judgement of the steps she had taken (eg, seeking asylum)? If her blood pressure truly does not allow her to travel, how could she have come to the US only weeks earlier?

Students as they newly arrive in the US often do not have realistic ideas about what they're getting into, the legal system, the consequences of small and large decisions, etc. That's why I find it even harder to analyze the story with logic...

I'll try to find out more.

frogman said...

aysha, did you not learn anything from your last post? lol stop dragging us into such topics lol.. i'm kidding of course..

i believe him leaving could have a simpler explanation. time heals many wounds. and maybe he knew that staying will only aggravate the situation and make it worse. i agree with saudi, that he shouldn't have left and missed all the court dates.

Bob said...

I don't understand why the Saudi Government should threaten to withdraw the scholarship. what does her marital situation have to do with that?
The F1 visa is given after it is established that she will be financially supported. If she loses her scholarship and the husband cuts her money off, then I don't see how she can support herself and kids while putting herself through school. I highly doubt she will get assylum. Her situation is tough and going back to KSA to face the wrath of her husband may or maybe not be something to dread, but it is not the concern of the US.

Cairogal said...

She may be working both governments for their benefits, though I suppose the alternative is to go home, possibly divorced, w/ 2 kids. What does she have to look forward to in KSA if she does that? She's smart to finish her studies, though seeking asylum whilst accepting the scholarship from KSA is an interesting contradiction. As long as she's getting money from the home country I can almost guarantee that she won't get asylum. Too many other people in greater need...

أبو سنان said...

There is a lot here that is unanswered.

I find it odd that the fight was over her wish to have the baby in the USA. That seems a bit lame. Although I know it is prestigous (why?) in the Middle East to have a baby in the USA, I would have thought that getting an education in the USA would be the main reason for wanting to stay, not having a baby here.

One wonders if the wife could have manipulated the situation to make sure she'd come to the USA and then ask for asylum?

Considering the relations between the USA and Saudi, such a request for asylum is almost certain to fail. If the USA allows asylum for domestic abuse, think of the flood gates that would open.

Besides, once the US system gives asylum to one Saudi female, how many more are going to follow? It would be a tacit indication that the society is so bad in Saudi that women MUST flee to remain safe.

I dont think it is going to happen.

So to the SACM and the girl's scholarship, in order to be on the scholarship a woman must have the permission of either her husband or male members of her family. Without this there is no scholarship. She knows this.

As to the man, I can tell you from first hand experience that many Saudis do not feel that they would ever get a fair shake in the US criminal justice system, especially in a situation where women's rights and violence is concerned.

99% of a possible jury pool would have him tried, convicted and imprisoned in their mind before opening statements were given in a US court.

I dont condone him leaving.........but I understand it.

Saudi in US said...

I agree with many of you regarding not knowing much of the circumstances that lead to this, nor do I really want to know as these are private issues. However, if there is proven physical violence by a a man against a woman (especially in late pregnancy) then the woman needs to be protected. The only determinant of that is physical evidence and witness reports.
In my opinion a man cannot sink any lower than being a wife beater. And that is regardless of the situation.

Broke Saudi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Broke Saudi said...

Abu Sinan, it's not that it's prestigious to have a baby in the US. It's for the simple reason of having the US passport; it makes life so much easier as opposed to a Saudi passport. As for the woman, all the more power to her. She's trying to do something for herself, and her kids. If that means getting favors from both governments, why not?

أبو سنان said...

I agree with you "Saud in USA". There isnt much lower than a man who beats his wife or child.

Broke Saudi,

I have heard from SO many Arabs, especially Saudis, bragging about their children born in the USA. It is never couched in citizenship terms, but that might be the case.

The lady needs to realise even if her baby is born here they will still deport her. They do it hundreds, maybe even thousands of times every years to mothers and fathers who are illegal but have one, or even multiple, American children.

I have a bit of a hint for those who think that they can have a kid here in the USA and move back in 21 years when the child asks for them.

It will still be a very lenghty process with no absolute guarantee of success. Besides, if the kid has lived in Saudi for 21 years, it is a big assumption for the parents to think the child will want to pick up their entire life and move to a country they dont know, and wait years to ask for their parents.

Technically speaking, if you get your American citizenship you must give up your Saudi passport. I am not sure that is something they'd be willing to do either.

The whole concept is something I dont understand. America is not the "Land of Milk and Honey" as so many think.

OprahArabia said...

I agree with all your post...Put US Passport aside...The wife is just trying to secure a good life here in the US..You are right about the husband fleeing to escape an unfair treatment here on his part...but what about the wife..Do you think she will be fairly treated back in Saudi Arabia???..

Aysha said...

Thank you guys for your input, there's truth to the points and questions you make. To be more objective, I've been trying in the last three days to get more info via SACM, Barometer, the reporter herself, and Maha Al-Barjas, apparently it IS a case in the process and no one is giving out any contact info or details at the time. I received a letter from Al-Barjas, and concluded form it that she is responding on a legal level and she has someone working with her at the time...
It will be an interesting case to follow, because like a couple of you mention here, depending on where it ends, many future possibilities are going to lend themselves...

Hala said...

What can be seen from this incidence is that the scholarship system is not equipped to handle such problems in the students lives, so if a student is faced with a domestic problem she/ he is supposed to be back home to solve it & schooling is not an issue!! I think it's an active area for students abroad to work for & support proper legislations & policies which protect their fellow students, much better than having Saudi days & dialects in my opinions!!! Otherwise this lady has to work solo with her son...

Aysha said...

Halal,
You make an excellent point. Like many sensitive issues in SA, tackling it would mean pulling a thread out of an intricate net of other issues. So, if we speak about being better equipped with handling domestic violence during scholarship programs, we need to go and work on the idea of domestic violence, free speach (eg, contacting media), male guardisnaship over women, etc. The scholarship is issued by Ministry of Higher Education which legally abides by Saudi Arabian law, so if there's an acception to be made to that law, there's no way around involving the whole Saudi collective mind in it, and treating it as an isolated subject.

While researching this story, I was told that a very similar one took place in Oregon and during the late 70's! The mother never could go back home after it, and she suffered quite a lot to support herself and family.