Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our abandoned children: Mother of Sami

TWO letters from abandoned foreign mothers with Saudi children, broke my heart this week. One mother is stuck with her son between her home country in South America and his birthplace in the United States, and the other is a divorcee, living with her autistic children here, among us. All they ask for is basic support for their children. I haven’t heard from their exes and the agencies they called on for justice, and I hope to hear soon. In the meantime, the least we can do is investigate their claims.

Here is a summary of their letters, starting with the one from Riyadh:

“I have been doing some thinking regarding Faisal who was the only person who responded to your articles with an offer to help, but not to me! Could it be that he is not a genuine person? This might sound like I am paranoid, but I can assure you that much stranger things have happened to us over the years in our quest for support.

“One example, when my children were younger (they are now teenagers), I requested a meeting with Dr. Ali Al-Namlah, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs at the time. DURING THE MEETING HE DID SAY THAT HE WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT MY EX-HUSBAND WAS CLAIMING MONEY FOR THE CHILDREN. Excuse the capital letters!

“As soon as I returned home I received a telephone call from his secretary, who I had seen at the meeting. In a nice way, he explained that he was a friend of my ex-husband, and then he asked me to translate some English idioms for him. There were about eight idioms, and every single idiom held a veiled threat to me. The other stuff that I could reveal about what has happened to us is horrible!

“Strange that an innocent woman alone with two children could be treated in such a way, when I am really a very respectable woman and a devoted mother who has no life of my own and has done nothing except demand a divorce from a Saudi and remain in the Kingdom because that is where my two autistic children were desperate to remain.”

The second email came from Central America: “My name is Maria, a Guatemalan student in the US, and the mother of Sami, the son of a Saudi student, from a prominent family. I met Suleiman in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the University of Minnesota. The relationship was great until I got pregnant in 2011. At the beginning, he asked me to have an abortion but I refused and left home. We are Muslims and this is prohibited in Islam. Besides, I do want my baby.

“A week later he asked me back, because he couldn’t live without me. Four months later he returned to Saudi Arabia, for Eid, but never returned home, except in December 2011, while I was in Texas with my aunt trying to survive. While he was studying at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, he kept contacting me, especially when the Saudi Cultural Mission called him regarding the issue of his son. When he denied that the child was his son, they just took his side.

“Suddenly, he decided to register Sami under his name and signed the acknowledgement of Paternity by the Attorney General of Texas. But in June 2012 he left for Saudi Arabia and decided to cut me off. I contacted his father through the Jordanian imam of our mosque. He showed sympathy but later told me the case was taken up by a lawyer in the Saudi Embassy because his son assured him that I am a blackmailer.

“Sure enough, I have been mailing the family, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over a year to get financial help for their son but they have just ignored me. Is that blackmailing in your culture? Right now I am stuck with my son in my home country, Guatemala, because Suleiman does not want to sign a travel permission for Sami. When I asked why, he rudely replied ‘You lost your freedom when you allowed me to sign Sami’s papers, and I will never do anything to please you!’ He probably thought that I am less trouble away from the States.

“I reported all that to his father, and that I am willing to undergo a DNA test to prove he is Sami’s biological father, but his dad refused to even listen. I don’t believe Suleiman or his family have the right to treat us like beggars and make my son’s life a mess just because Suleiman doesn’t want to take responsibility. I strongly believe that they cannot hide and deny Sami forever, and even if they do so, they will have to give an account to Allah on the Day of Judgment. So if someone is willing to help with my case I would appreciate it. All I want now is my son’s custody, not financial support.”

Heartless, mindless Russia: Always wrong and late!

THE Russians have finally decided to acknowledge the facts on the ground, and have made it clear that they realize that the Syrian opposition is gaining the upper hand and may topple the government soon. 

On December 13, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Russia is making plans for the possible evacuation of thousands of its nationals from Syria. He said a victory by the rebels would come at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.??Hello, Moscow! Welcome to the world. Now that Russia has finally realized that it is all over for their dictator in Damascus, what are they going to do about it? The Russians seem to always be late. They seem to always be on the wrong side of the people, righteousness and history.

In the last 30 years, they have supported the Marxist and Socialist regimes in Afghanistan, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Southern and Central America, South-East Asia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Southern Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and now in Syria. All these regimes lost their battle against their own people.

When the representatives of the people came to power, they remembered who stood with their oppressors. Russia lost political and economic influence in the world as a result. Today, Russia has lost all its military bases outside the motherland. Their last naval base, in Tartus, Syria, is on its way out.

The problem is: Russians never learn. They keep hanging on to the wrong allies to the last drop. They also have never been good friends and wise consultants. Instead of counseling against the use of force, they have actually supported it. They have encouraged and often assisted in the oppression of public protest and democratic voices.

It is never too late to do the right thing. Without expecting much in return, Russia must recognize that it has lost in Syria and acknowledge that it bet on the wrong horse. The first thing it should do is courageously announce that it was wrong. Then it must apologize and make it up to the Syrian people. 

A lot needs to be done, but at the top of the list is the need to withdraw its political cover, stop its military support and try to convince the Bashar Al-Assad regime to give up its useless and deadly fight. It could provide him and his family, as well as a selective number of officials and commanders, a way out. 

Russia should work with concerned regional and international powers to find a smooth, peaceful and workable regime transition that provides security for all and protects minorities, especially the Alawites, from majority revenge. The more united and coherent the approach toward the crisis, the better the chance to work out a rosier end to the tragedy and a brighter dawn of the future. 

Russia should change its nationalistic political mindset. We are no longer living in the age of the Cold War that justified heartless and ethic-less policies. In the satellite TV and social media age, the public is well-informed and involved in world affairs.

Ordinary people, often more than elites, are making and breaking, doing and undoing governments and strategies.  It is about time that message reaches the high-walled Kremlin.