Saudi couple victim of rise in 'forced divorce'

Fatima al-Timani is facing the end of her sixth month in prison in the Saudi town of Damman. Her only crime is to refuse to be separated from the man to whom she had been happily married for the past four years and with whom she has two children.

Fatima is the latest victim of a growing practice in the oil-rich Saudi kingdom of forced divorce, when disgruntled relatives have used hardline Islamic courts to dissolve matches against the will of the married couple.

The plight of 34-year-old Fatima, who was pregnant when court proceedings began in 2005 and is now in prison with her one-year-old son, Suleiman, has drawn widespread public sympathy in the tightly controlled kingdom.

Fatima is forbidden from seeing her husband, Mansour al-Timani. He now looks after their two-year old-son Noha, who has only been allowed occasional visits to his mother. Fatima's relatives have accused Mansour of lying about his tribal background to win their father's approval for the marriage and want it annulled so she can have an arranged marriage to a spouse of their choosing.

She was arrested in October of last year in the city of Jeddah and charged with living illegally with Mansour. The couple's efforts to be reunited suffered a further setback this month when an appeals court in the capital, Riyadh, upheld the original ruling forcing the divorce.

Mansour said he will not accept the appeals court ruling and that he still considers Fatima his wife."This ruling is a non-Islamic one and, therefore, I refuse to acknowledge it," he said.

"If her family wants to marry her to another man while we both still consider ourselves married then there is nothing I can do about it. But God will be our judge."

A human rights activist, Fawziya Al-Ouyoni, one of the women behind a petition calling on Saudi's King Abdullah to personally intervene said: "When the divorce is carried out with the couple's approval then this is just the way it happens all over the world. But when the divorce is forced on the couple with an order from a high court then that is a massive disaster."

Saudi Arabia has possibly the worst record on women's rights of any country. The kingdom has been ruled since the 1920s by the House of Saud whose clerical allies, the Wahhabists, have imposed an austere state faith on what had been a religiously diverse mixture of Muslims with Sunni, Shia and Sufi communities.

Under Wahhabi rule, women have no voting rights, almost no employment rights and are barred from even driving.

Despite a concerted effort to present a more reformist image to the outside world since the death of King Fahd in August 2005, rights groups have noted continuing erosions of human rights under his successor Abdullah. Dr Irfan Al Alawi a British Muslim and director for The Centre for Islamic Pluralism based in London, said that the case was not an isolated incident and that as many as 19 forced divorces were working their way through the courts.

The case of Rania Albou-Enin, a 27-year-old Saudi physician has caused particular concern. In her last month of pregnancy, she is anxiously awaiting an appeals court decision in a case of forced divorce brought by he father.

Her husband, Saud Al-Khaledi, is being held in a police jail in Alkhobar, according to her lawyer Ibrahim Al-Behairi. Rania, who had been paying all her family's bills, has claimed she was beaten by one of her brothers and that the family brought the case to ensure they would not lose their main breadwinner.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own