And her only crime is, thanks to the divorce, not having a legal male guardian, and being also unwilling to return to the “custody” of her family. Sharia Alert. “Sixth Month in Prison for Fatima and Child,” by Ebtihal Mubarak for Arab News:
JEDDAH, 20 December 2006 “” Fatima, the 34-year-old woman who was divorced in absentia against her will from her husband by a judge at the request of her half-brothers, has entered her sixth month of incarceration at a prison in Dammam. The husband, Mansour Al
-Timani, 37, says prison officials have impeded his ability to communicate with the woman that he still considers his wife.
In October, prison officials insisted that Mansour take custody of the older of the two children, two-year-old Noha. She was allowed to keep her 11-month-old son, Salman, in prison with her.
“Since that time the connection between me and (Fatima) by telephone has totally been cut off,” said Mansour.
The official that answered the phone at the prison, who would not provide his name, said that since the two are officially divorced, Mansour no longer has the right to call by telephone. “Communicating with prisoners has certain channels and procedures,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
Mansour said he is allowed 15 minutes with his wife when he visits in person on Saturdays so that the children “” one with the mother in prison and the other with the father outside “” can spend time with both parents.
Fatima in fact has the freedom to return to the custody of her family (women of any age are legally required to have a mahram, or male guardian) but she has refused saying she would only walk out of prison into the arms of the man she still considers her husband.
On July 20, 2005, Justice Ibrahim Al-Farraj divorced the couple in their absence in the northern city of Al-Jouf at the request of two of Fatima’s half-brothers. They claim that Mansour hid his tribal affiliation when he sought permission from the now-deceased father to marry the woman, a charge Mansour denies and is irrelevant because under Shariah, tribal affiliation is not a consideration for a legitimate marriage.
But also under Sharia, the half-brothers’ word is worth more in court than Fatima’s simply by their being men, and on their testimony, she sits in jail due to the mahram requirement.
The couple were not only divorced in absentia after nearly three years of marriage, but were not informed immediately of the decision. They were arrested later in Jeddah (where they had fled after learning of the ruling, hoping to find help from an official here). Mansour was later released, but Fatima refused to return to the custody of her family and therefore languishes in prison.
Meanwhile, Justice Al-Farraj hasn’t been seen at his court since early November. The Ministry of Justice would not comment on whether the judge is under suspension or being investigated for his ruling that has angered the public “” the court’s decision was even ridiculed in the popular television comedy serial “Tash.”
Fatima’s lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, said his appeal against the divorce ruling, submitted Oct. 7, is still pending.
Until the next step in a judicial process that has taken over a year is made, the husband and wife have nothing to do but wait: She in prison and he outside.