Two years ago, a knock on Fatima and Mansour al-Timani’s door shattered the life they had built together.
It was the police, delivering news that a judge had annulled their marriage in absentia after some of Fatima’s relatives sought the divorce on grounds she had married beneath her.
That was just the beginning of an ordeal for a couple who — under Saudi Arabia’s strict segregation rules — can no longer live together…
Fatima’s case underscores shortcomings in the kingdom’s Islamic legal system in which rules of evidence are shaky, lawyers are not always present and sentences often depend on the whim of judges.
The most frequent victims are women, who already suffer severe restrictions on daily life in Saudi Arabia: They cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative, or travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission…
Fatima took the couple’s 2-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son to live with her mother, who had persuaded her to let Mansour deal with the legal issues on his own.
But after three months without her husband, Fatima and the children sneaked out of her mother’s house and flew with Mansour to the western seaside city of Jiddah, where they sought to live in anonymity.
Saudi police soon discovered them and imprisoned the family for living together illegally.
Victimizing people for offending Muslim law is a specialty of the West Midlands Police, so look for the first force-divorced families to be arrested in Birmingham.