Thursday, January 3, 2013

Divorce and blackmail in Kingdom


JEDDAH — For many expatriates in the Kingdom, divorce is viewed negatively in their respective cultures and as a result many families and spouses are accused of using blackmail to avoid going through a divorce. Many women who spoke to Saudi Gazette said their husbands use emotional blackmail whenever talk of separation arises. Similarly, men said wives use children as an excuse to continue with a dysfunctional relationship.

“My husband blackmailed me and gathered my whole family, including my sick mother, when I asked for a Khula. He told me I have a sick ailing mother and I shouldn’t give her grief at this age. All of my brothers and sisters living in Pakistan and Canada told me not to file for Khula and to stay with him as his wife for the sake of our family name and mother’s health,” said Saaeda Rizwan, a 32-year-old Pakistani fitness trainer living in Dahran.

Rihana Saqib, a 35-year-old housewife from India said her husband refused to give her a Khula and said she has no choice but to live with him. “He threatened to take custody of our children and tell my family I cheated on him,” Rihana said while adding that Asian families tend to favor men and regard divorcees as a burden.

“My mother refused to have me back. She said I can go live on my own but I should not return to my family home as I will bring shame to the family name. Society thinks a chaste woman will live with her husband no matter what. Society hails women who are mistreated by their husbands or in laws yet remain with them.”

Saleem Arshad, a 25-year-old Indian engineer acknowledged the problems women face in getting a divorce, but said they should not give into emotional blackmail. “People in our society, even the educated ones living abroad have the same mentality. They pretty much believe in ‘sati’ where women are burned with their husbands’ dead bodies. Parents do not want their daughters to get a divorce for the sake of their reputation. It is inhumane. I am saddened by the very thought of it.”

Naeem Farhad, a 44-year-old Bangladeshi mechanic living in Jeddah told Saudi Gazette most men avoid divorce because wives blackmail them with their children. “When I wanted to divorce my wife she told me I was sinning as a father and as a husband. She said I am liable for my children’s future. I told her my children would live with me but she threatened to take her life and made me swear on my children. It was like a Pakistani drama TV series gone bad.”

Shahla Baig, a 48-year-old Indian housewife living in Jeddah said her husband threatened her with religion and family when she asked for Khula.

He said “If I remarry no other man would devote himself to my children and they will never be loved again. He also said I was too old to ask for Khula and that I will give his family a bad name.” Shahla said her husband instead let her live in his house as the mother of his children. “I am surprised he has not asked me to pay rent because I live like a tenant and we barely interact. I am living with him for the sake of my six children. But he still refuses to give me Khula whenever I ask him.”

Khadeeja Khan, a 25-year-old Pakistani graphic design student living in Jeddah said: “It is shameful to see how our society treats divorce. In Islam, a woman can remarry; she has the right, just like a man to live a respectable life with dignity. My Saudi friend who got divorced was married the same year. Her parents and brothers supported her. I have been trying to get a divorce for three years, but my parents said they will disown me the moment I take the step.” Khadeeja said her parent’s behavior has been the biggest setback for her emotionally. “Seeing how my own family treats me, my husband has lost respect for me. I don’t blame him. I blame our society.”

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