Pressure Riyadh to let us reunite, say Saudi couple
Lee Su Shyan
Mon, May 26, 2008
The Straits Times
RIYADH - A SAUDI couple forced to divorce by an Islamic court have called for international pressure to reunite them, after the local authorities failed to fulfil a pledge to do so.

Ms Fatima Azzaz and Mr Mansour al-Timani were forced to separate in 2006 after her brothers persuaded judges that her husband's tribal stock was not prestigious enough.

It is one of several cases that have drawn international criticism of human rights in Saudi Arabia, a key United States ally and the world's top oil exporter.

Professor Yakin Erturk, the United Nations' expert on violence against women, said during a visit to Riyadh in February that the Saudi authorities had promised to allow the couple to reunite.

But on Saturday, Mr Mansour said: 'Our case has not been resolved...I cannot get justice in my country, the United Nations could not get me justice, I turn to Allah and to the world to ask for this injustice to be brought to an end.'

Officials at the Saudi Justice Ministry and the state-run Human Rights Commission were not immediately available for comment.

Mr Mansour said the authorities had repeatedly detained him and warned him not to speak to the media. He said he had been banned from travelling or seeing his wife and two-year-old son.

'The authorities want me to give up the case. I could spend my entire life seeking justice or even be thrown in a dark cell, but I will never give up,' he said by telephone.

Meanwhile, Ms Fatima is being held with her son in a government home for orphans. She refuses to return to her family home as required by the court order divorcing her from Mr Mansour, who has custody of their four- year-old daughter.

In December, King Abdullah issued a pardon to a 19-year-old woman condemned to 200 lashes for having been with an unrelated man when seven men kidnapped and raped her.

Prof Erturk said judicial reform would be crucial to remove restrictions on women's rights in Saudi Arabia, which bans women from driving and imposes on them a system of male 'guardianship'.

Women must usually obtain permission from a 'guardian' - father, husband or son - to work, travel, study, marry or obtain medical treatment.

The King said last year that he wanted to reform the judiciary, dominated by clerics of the strict Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam. Plans are under way to put laws into writing, but reforms could take years.



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