The U.S. Saudi custody case deserves an vital determination for the mom

Bethany Vierra and her daughter in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Women’s Skills Office, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

WENATCHEE – A Wenatchee woman made an important legal decision to prevent her daughter from being returned to the child’s father in Saudi Arabia.

Bethany Vierra Al-Haidari is struggling in the Saudi courts to maintain custody during her divorce from her Saudi husband. She left Saudi Arabia with her daughter in 2019 while her ex-husband sued to keep custody of children.

Back in Wenatchee, Al-Haidari called on the Chelan County Supreme Court to invalidate decisions by the Saudi courts that were unanimously in her husband’s favor. Under Saudi law, almost all women’s freedoms are subject to the will of their husbands or closest male relatives.

Al-Haidari’s lawyer Scott Volyn told the court that after she left Saudi Arabia with her daughter, she would face imprisonment or even executed on her return. Al-Haidari, who studied human rights as a PhD student, argued against the Saudi system in Ferrera’s court.

In a February 9 ruling, Chelan County Supreme Court judge Kristin Ferrera said that Saudi court rulings that granted custody of the father are unenforceable in Washington because they give the mother her basic human and parent rights deny.

“The guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, which makes all important decisions with the father solely on the basis of his gender and could effectively exclude the mother’s visitation rights, corresponds to a custody law that violates the basic principles of human rights,” Ferrera wrote in her decision.

“… As a woman, American citizen and non-Muslim, Bethany was not honored as a parent in Saudi Arabia with due process and equality,” she wrote, “so this court cannot uphold the Saudi court’s custody decisions. ”

The child’s father has denied Ferrera’s decision and the allegations made by Al-Haidari in her petition. The case remains open until the court can reach a custody agreement.

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