Contrary to myth, when a perfectly good mother is custodially challenged by her child's father, she is immediately at risk—most certainly in any Muslim country where the custody of children is viewed as a male religious, tribal, and legal right.
If the mother has grown up in that country, she knows this can happen, which is one reason why Muslim mothers do not seek divorce and "accept" second and third wives into their homes. Western women are different.
Yazmin Maribel Bautista was born in Mexico and moved to Arizona, where she became a naturalized American citizen. Yazmin (a common Mexican name) attended Arizona State University. In 2003-2004, she met Sadiq Jaffar Al-Saffar, a college student; despite their age difference, Yazmin told me that Sadiq pursued her, begged her to marry him. When she was already five months pregnant, she did so. “I trusted him,” she said.
In the fall of 2004, Yazmin gave birth to a daughter, Fatima. “But Sadiq kept going back to Bahrain,” Yazmin confided. He also received his Green Card. “I wondered, does he have another girlfriend, a wife?” According to Yazmin, by 2005, Sadiq had left Arizona. He “sent us a hundred dollars here, a hundred there” for a while, then stopped. Sadiq did not support his family. In four years, he visited only three times.
In January of 2009, Yazmin divorced him and received custody in Arizona. Her situation was not unusual.
However, like most Western women, Yazmin was surprised. She had no idea this could happen.
Many traditional Arab men tend to choose Western women as wives or girlfriends who have been raised on romantic fairy tales, women who are vulnerable and trusting. The men routinely wine and dine them, treat them with great charm and every courtesy, and make outsize promises which the women unwisely believe. After they begin an affair, or marry, usually after the men get their Green Cards, everything changes overnight.
While exceptions do exist, in general, the Western woman is now treated as if she were an Arab or Muslim woman, which means she's treated very badly. She is expected to convert to Islam and to raise her children as Muslims. If she refuses to do so, she might be honor-murdered.
Yazmin went to Bahrain because she got laid off in Arizona. And because she chose to believe Sadiq’s promises: that he would get her a good job, an apartment of her own, a car, a cell phone, and that both she and/or Fatima would be part of a loving, extended family.
He lied. One thing that Westerners find hard to believe is the ease with which many traditional Arabs and Muslims both exaggerate or lie. Think about how effective Islamist propaganda has been in the West. Then, think of how this capacity might play out in a domestic setting.
Talk to most Arab and Muslim men and you will find that the slightest departure from their being in control means that they have been victimized and must avenge their lost honor. Thus, Yazmin’s attempt to remove Sadiq’s “property” (their daughter) means that Yazmin will tarnish Sadiq’s honor. If Sadiq is like other Arab, Muslim men, he will say and do anything to avoid this.
This includes lying about everything, including lying about having tricked Yazmin into coming to Bahrain.
I have talked to many American mothers who have traveled to the Muslim world to meet their husbands' families who soon find that they cannot leave. Their passports may be taken away. They have no local resources to protect them.
Long ago, this happened to me in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Today, someone like Yazmin, who is divorced, may herself leave Bahrain--but she can’t take her daughter with her. Not even if she has custody in Arizona.
Yazmin has no money, no job, no financial resources, and no powerful relatives who can help her fight for her daughter.
She is traumatized, ashamed that her own naivete, “trusting nature,” has potentially deprived her daughter of an American future.
Despite this, Yazmin has guts. Twice, she managed to clear customs; twice, she was turned back by poor American Embassy advice and by her former husband’s highly aggressive agents.
How can this happen? Easy. Fifty-four Muslim countries have not signed the Hague convention which requires the return of parentally kidnapped children when the other parent has been granted custody in their home country.
The state of Arizona granted Yazmin Bautista a divorce and custody of her daughter. Why should her daughter -- an American citizen -- be forced to grow up as a Bahraini national, forced to lead a traditional Arab life as opposed to a much freer American life? Why should American citizens be forced to live under shariah law?
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. is emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969), the National Women’s Health Network (1975) and the author of thousands of articles and of thirteen books, including "Women and Madness" (1972), "Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman" (2002) and "The New Anti-Semitism" (2003). She once lived in Kabul, Afghanistan and is currently updating her classic work "Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody."She may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com.
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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.