Manama: She was deeply vivacious and particularly eager to have a life of infinite possibilities and blissful dreams.
And when at the age of 13, the Iraqi girl who would later be known as Umm Nayef was approached by a Saudi man, she realised that her marriage would be the first step towards the fulfilment of her dreams.
“We were living in Kuwait and I readily accepted,” she said. “We had five children together. One day, he decided to go back to Saudi Arabia and prepared the necessary papers for himself and the five children. But not me. He simply did not recognise me as his wife and did not record my name anywhere,” she said, quoted by local Saudi daily Al Sharq.
Despite her repeated pleas to recognise her formally as his wife, her husband refused. He later brought her to Saudi Arabia, but on a domestic helper’s visa.
She insisted on her status with her children.
“I decided to go to court and I filed a legal suit, asking for either a formal recognition or a divorce. He opted to divorce me. But it did not end there and my nightmare took a worse turn as he pushed for my deportation from Saudi Arabia. The police took me to the court and there the judge said that I either had to leave or marry another Saudi and remain in the country. I eventually chose to marry a Saudi man who was paralysed. My aim was to be near my children,” she recalled.
Umm Nayef moved to a garage donated by a benevolent man and started selling sundry items at the popular market in Hafr Al Baten in the northeastern region of Saudi Arabia to sustain herself.
“However, one month later, my former husband contacted my family in Iraq and told them that I got married to a man who was beneath my dignity and social class. One of my nephews was so upset that he came to Saudi Arabia and shot at me with his pistol as I was heading home from the market. He hit me on the back and I suddenly lost all power to move.”
The attacker was sentenced to four years in prison and to a compensation fine of 90,000 riyals (Dh88,108).
“He served only one year and was let out. He was deported without paying me anything,” she said.
“The problem is that I am paralysed and cannot make any move. I have lost one son and the other is having serious medical problems. My daughters are also suffering from various illnesses. We are destitute and we need help, especially as we live in a single room that is totally unfit,” she said.
A local charity organisation officer said that they were aware of the situation of Umm Nayef.
“She is on our list and she is getting 500 riyals a month,” he said.