American Mom Fights For Custody In An Oppressive Country

As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe but sometimes a situation falls beyond our control?

What do we do when we are unable to reach our child in time of need?

In Saudi Arabia, a mom has come face to face with that reality; and she couldn’t be more scared. 

Bethany Vierra’s relationship with the man she thought was “the one” started just like any other. 

While working as a teacher at a school for women in Saudi Arabia, Vierra fell in love with a Saudi businessman (whose identity is kept private), reports People.

They quickly got married in 2013, and shortly after had a daughter they named Zaina.

Early on in the marriage, Vierra’s ex-husband seemed “charming ad loving and generous and kind,” according to reports to People.

At the beginning, it seemed really great. … She felt like she had met somebody who was on the same page as her,” said Carroll, who was Vierra’s maid of honor at her wedding in Portugal, according to the Times.

Not long after the birth of her daughter, Vierra’s life began to spiral, leaving her picturesque family entrapped in an ugly battle. 

Divorce was sought, leaving Zaina in the middle of a custody battle that had the weight of centuries of customs and religion against her. 

In Saudi Arabia, women are still under the control of male “guardians” who more or less decide your fate; choosing if you get to go to school, travel, open a bank account, or engage in a relationship. 

One outside expert reports to People:

This woman’s case is particularly difficult because you have Saudi and Islamic customs, morals and religion coming into play.” 

For a 31-year-old woman from Washington, Vierra did not know how to proceed to gain custody of her daughter in a world where she was not validated or recognized; she was “completely stuck.”

Vierra’s family told the New York Times that her ex had allowed her residency to expire, keeping her isolated from her support system in a time of need. 

She has since been granted her legal residency again – giving her access to her bank account and allowing her to travel – but remains apart from her daughter. 

Zaina, who is four-years-old now, is currently a ward of her father, the Times reports, but it is being challenged in court. 

Born to an American mother and a Saudi father, Zaina is a Saudi citizen and thus subject to Saudi law, even if her mother is not. 

It was never Vierra’s plan to take her daughter and escape to a far off land, she just wants the opportunity to raise her daughter and be a good mother. 

According to the Times, Vierra wrote:

“I was never trying to escape Saudi Arabia. I have dedicated my life’s work to this country and being a part of its growth, development and vision for its future.”

Vierra or her ex-husband have not responded to further inquiries by the Times or People. It was reported that accounts that were previously active on the web went “dark.”

We can only hope that this was an attempt to keep the court cases and her plight private.

Dale McElhattan is the former director of the Office of Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. 

He tells People:

A woman doesn’t have a lot of rights in Saudi Arabia. This woman’s case is particularly difficult because you have Saudi and Islamic customs, morals and religion coming into play.”

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Women have had a tumultuous journey towards independence in Saudi Arabia, where only recently they have won the right to drive and go to sporting events. 

One Saudi woman speaking on male guardianship tells the Human Rights Watch:

We all have to live in the borders of the boxes our dads or husbands draw for us.”

Promises of better days ahead have been made by the de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has made pledges to reform “the country’s historic gender discrimination.”

So far there has been little to no change.

The US Embassy knows of Vierra’s plight, as well as thousands of readers who can contact their coal representatives for support. 

Being separated from your children is a devastating feeling, and not being able to do anything about it is unbearable.

We can only imagine what this mom is going through right now as she plays back everything that led up to this point in her life. 

Please let us know in the comments section what you think about Vierra’s situation and if you think she will get her daughter back. 

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