Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 6:53 pm Post subject: Ordeal of a Japanese Mother
Ordeal of a Japanese Mother: She Has to Visit Kingdom to See Her Son
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1§ion ... ry=Kingdom
Maha Akeel, Arab News
JEDDAH, 10 April 2005 — If a child was kidnapped from a Saudi and whisked out of the country, there would be national outrage and shock over a horrible crime. But when the kidnapper is a Saudi parent and the child is whisked into the Kingdom, the foreign mother learns it is a matter for civil courts.
Perhaps Hiroe’s story and her Saudi ex-husband’s are typical of any couple from different countries who separate and one of whom has to endure living away from their children. But it is still a story worth mentioning because no matter what the variations in details and background, in the end there is a father and a mother fighting over custody and a child suffering the consequences. There must be a better, more civilized and definitely a morally and religiously acceptable way of handling these issues.
In Hiroe’s case, some people might consider her lucky that she is at least able to see her son regularly, but that arrangement did not come easily. For her, spending two weeks in Jeddah with her son every three months is neither enough nor is it practical to travel back and forth to Japan.
They met in 1990 when Wasef came to Japan to attend an international meeting on the marine environment and kept in contact until they married in Japan in mid-1995 and she converted to Islam. He joined her in Japan at the end of 1995 after getting his master’s degree from the United Kingdom and applied for a scholarship to get his PhD in Japan.
In Osaka, she gave birth to their son, Faisal, in March 1997 while Wasef studied Japanese to enter the university. Unfortunately, his scholarship specified a different university in a different city. So, from 1998 to 2001, Wasef worked on his PhD while visiting Hiroe and Faisal every few months for a couple of days in Osaka where she worked and supported herself, her son and Wasef as the scholarship money was not enough for his expenses.
In early 2001, Hiroe was transferred to the company’s Tokyo head office. Meanwhile Wasef quit his studies because he had problems with his supervisor and was unable to continue and returned to Saudi Arabia in April 2001 to find a job. Hiroe stayed in Japan with her son until Wasef was settled and then visited him in the summer but returned to Japan with the understanding that she would live with him in Jeddah once he got a regular job.
In December 2001, he invited Hiroe to Saudi Arabia for a vacation in Bahrain. A day after arriving in Bahrain, he left Hiroe in the hotel and took Faisal for an outing and never came back. Worried sick about her son and asking around about him in a strange country with no one to help her, she finally got a call from him at midnight telling her that he is in Saudi Arabia with Faisal and ordering her to return to Japan and not to call him until after three months or she would never see her son.
“He kidnapped him, and I didn’t know what to do,” she told Arab News. He left her passport and a one-way airline ticket to Japan for her in a safety deposit box at the hotel, and without a guarantor (kafeel) to re-enter Saudi Arabia or iqama and family ID card, which he took with him, she had no choice but to return to Japan. She followed his instructions and when she called him, he refused to discuss any solutions for their problem and kept postponing any meetings while threatening her if she caused him any trouble. “I was crying every day, and despite the problems we had in our marriage I really hoped we could work it out,” she said.
After a year and a half, Hiroe finally realized that he had no intention of getting back with her even though he did not say he wanted a divorce. “In fact, he took advantage of the situation by asking me for help in establishing his business while keeping my son hostage,” she said.
Hiroe finally began seeking help from a lawyer, the Saudi Embassy in Japan and the Japanese Consulate General in Saudi Arabia. “I now realize it was stupid of me to wait that long.”
In the summer of 2003, the Saudi ambassador to Japan called Wasef and found out that he had already divorced Hiroe without her knowledge and refused any discussion of her rights.
“How can he divorce me without my knowledge? In Japan, a wife has to sign a paper agreeing to the divorce. I was told that he forged my signature on a document written in Arabic stating that I agreed to the divorce and forfeited my right to my son,” said Hiroe.
The Japanese consul general in Saudi Arabia also called him, and it turned out that Wasef had remarried and did not want Hiroe to intervene in his new happy life. The only thing left for Hiroe was to file a lawsuit, and she hired the law office of Dr. Khalid Al-Nowaisser.
“My lawyer said that I could not dispute the divorce after it was finalized and as a foreign mother the judge would not grant me custody, so my case focused on first securing my right to visit my son and second to receive financial compensation for all the years I supported the family in Japan,” said Hiroe.
In March 2004, the court ordered that she has the right to see her son every three months, and since then she had been to Jeddah four times. Each time Wasef made it difficult for her to see her son, wasting her precious limited time in the city.
“It took so much effort to work out the visiting arrangement with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs to allow her to enter without a ‘kafeel,’” said Bassem Al-Hussaini, the lawyer who is handling her case.
The more complicated part of the lawsuit, however, is regarding her alimony.
“In addition to her entitlement to the three-month alimony following the divorce, we are asking for $2,500 a month for the period of their marriage when he should have been supporting her, taking into consideration the high living expenses in Japan; the standard alimony given to a wife here is SR500,” Al-Hussaini told Arab News. The lawsuit also asks for compensation of her son’s expenses.
“A consideration committee makes its recommendation on the appropriate alimony for the son and presents it to the judge to determine the amount. All this can take a very long time in our courts. In the meantime, the husband has been very uncooperative, refusing to pay anything,” said Al-Hussaini.
The lawyer said there is no way the judge would consider giving her custody and the husband will definitely not agree to allow the son to visit her in Japan. She can only wait until the son reaches the age of 21 when he can travel without his father’s consent.
“It is difficult for me to leave my job every three months to come here, not to mention the expense, but this is my only option now. And as a woman, it is also difficult to find a job here, which I’m willing to do to be near my son,” Hiroe said a few days ago during her last visit to Jeddah.