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Posts Tagged ‘Women’s Rights’

[NOTE: This was written by a former TOL foreign-correspondent trainee of mine in Prague. It appeared in the March 7 edition of The Arab News.]

By Hassna’a Mokhtar

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – The decision to leave my country came after I knocked on many doors of the Saudi bureaucracy, hoping in vain to obtain the God-given right to live with my Arab-Canadian husband in the country of my birth.

Instead of a residency permit, I was called names and degraded. Why? Because I, a Saudi, had chosen to marry a non-Saudi.

Not only was I humiliated, I was also approached for bribes of up to SR40,000 (about $10,600) by people claiming to know how to manipulate the system. My husband was kicked out of Saudi Arabia twice because his temporary status had lapsed. At one point in this ridiculous process, an immigration official lost my husband’s Canadian passport.

It was at the end of this long, fruitless and humiliating journey that I realized giving up and moving to Canada was the best decision to make.

Living constantly in distress because my country refuses to grant my beloved husband legal status is infuriating.

I tied the knot in June 2008, but only after a year of frustration in order to obtain the Interior Ministry’s permission.

At one point in that process my father-my legal guardian-escorted me to the ministry to obtain legal recognition of my marriage. At the marriage license office, I interrogated the woman behind the desk … (more…)

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Anişoara Mihai, seated behind her husband, before he told her to leave. (Photo: mjj)

SIBIU, Romania – For another perspective on what internal pressures the Kalderash Roma face to abandon their tradition of early-teen marriage, tonight we visited the stately home of Ilarie Mihai.

Around the large conference table in his office, Mihai, executive president of the National Council of Roma in Romania, railed against those dowry-driven Kalderash who marry off their children for the biggest booty:  some dowries of gold coins are said to run up to 50,000 euros.

“We’ll never become civilized if we continue this way!” he roared as his wife, Anişoara, served us coffee in delicate porcelain cups. She then took a seat behind her husband, in a chair against the wall.

In maroon headscarf and braided hair, 55-year-old Anişoara was the picture of a tradition-bound Kalderash woman, listening impassively as her husband spoke. At some point, though, she uttered a few words to him in Romani. It wasn’t clear exactly what she said, but his reaction sure was: with a wave of his hand, he ordered her to leave the room.

Except, she didn’t. In fact, as my colleague Petru Zoltan carried on interviewing Mihai, my interpreter, Lavinia Gliga, and I motioned for Anişoara to join us at our end of the table. We’ve heard too many men talking about a women’s issue – the right to choose when to marry. So, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hear from a Romani matriarch … (more…)

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