How the Canadian Government Failed this Woman from Saudi Arabia

by August 2, 2013
filed under Activism
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Anyone with the knowledge of the patriarchal government in Saudi Arabia is aware that it’s near to impossible for them to have a series publicity campaign  that actually protects women. An anti-domestic violence campaign was launched with a picture of a Saudi woman in her niqab with a black eye and a slogan that read in English “this is the tip of the iceberg.”

You are probably wondering if this is a joke because of the unlikeliness for women to have protection in a system where their legal rights and mobility are subject to the whim of her husband. Tahkbib, the act of separating a woman from her husband is also a crime in Saudi Arabia that places all women’s aid workers at risk of becoming criminals.

In June, 2011 2 Saudi activists, Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni came to the assistance of a Canadian woman, named Nathalie Morin. Nathalie’s mother, Johanne Durocher (who has been speaking out for years to try and help her daughter leave Saudi Arabia with her children), connected with the activists in the hope that they would help Nathalie and her 3 small children receive food, while Nathalie’s husband, Saeed Al-Shahrani was away from home.

Johanne said Nathalie had reached out to her when she had been left alone by her husband with no money and her cupboards empty. When Wajeha and Fawzia showed up and were still outside the building, the police arrived. They arrested all 3 women and removed Nathalie from her apartment.  Nathalie insisted that she never spoke to Wajeha and Fawzia at any time.

Nathalie was questioned by the police for hours and they accused her of trying to kidnap her 3 children. She was not arrested but Wajeha and Fawzia were both charged with attempting to help Nathalie escape to the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh. Nathalie wished to stand up and speak for both activists but she was not allowed to. Now, pregnant with her 4th child and without healthcare, she fully supports them and states that they didn’t commit Tahkbib – trying to separate her from her husband.

Nathalie’s husband has even agreed to let her and her 3 children return to Canada as long as he can go with them. Nathalie also reports that on a visit to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh she hoped to sign a sworn statement to support the 2 activists and obtain aid from the Canadian embassy to allow her and her family to go back to Canada. However, she was instead told to leave the embassy.

Canadian embassy officials told Nathalie that she is no longer a Canadian citizen and has no right to seek the help of the Canadian government. How can this be?

Perhaps our embassy staff now works for Saudi Arabia and not the Canadian government. Since the conviction of the 2 activists on June 15, 2013, Canadian authorities have been invited to intervene for Nathalie and none have so much as lifted a finger to help.

There is something disgusting and wrong about a Canadian government who says that they value the rights and freedoms of every individual yet they won’t stand up for someone who is rightly a Canadian citizen in Saudi Arabia. Canadian citizens don’t lose their citizenship because they marry someone from somewhere else such as Saudi Arabia. They can become dual citizens or if they desire, they can choose otherwise to become a citizen of another country.

What weak and hypocritical government has decided to sit back and not let a Canadian woman return to her homeland, even though she has the permission of her husband in Saudi Arabia? What government has chosen not to intervene and say anything about the 2 activists who merely tried to help Nathalie provide food for her children? That would be the Canadian government, the one I elected democratically, who has chosen not to act and are as guilty as the Saudi Arabian’s in eliminating a woman’s right to mobility and to provide for her family the best a woman can. Are you impressed? I’m not.

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