By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
May 15, 2013
There is a fever in the air, generated by the recent crackdown by the passport department and officials from the Ministry of Labour on the status of illegal residents or those expatriates with residency violations. Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in his benevolence has allowed a grace period of three months for those with suspect papers to get them corrected.
While new rules have been announced to ease the burden on hundreds of thousands of residency violators, there seems to be a group that feels ignored and left on the sidelines without much hope of retribution. In the case of one expatriate who finds herself in such a situation, it demands sympathy for the predicament she finds herself in. But I shall leave my readers to judge that for themselves.
Her story goes as follows: “Good Morning, Mr. Tariq. I do not usually write letters to newspapers but in this instance I found that I had to ask this question to be addressed. I met and married my Saudi husband in 1988 and left my country and family to come to Saudi Arabia to live. My husband passed away in 2002, may God have mercy on his soul. I have one daughter from my husband who is now 13.
“After he died I could not renew my Iqama for 5 years due to sensitive issues I was experiencing with my in-laws. They were not very cooperative or sincere to me or to my daughter. I finally had to write the governor of Riyadh for permission to transfer my Iqama to an old family friend, which he granted. Our old family friend passed away approximately three months ago due to age and ailing health, Allah bless his soul.
“So now I am in the same boat so to speak. I have to search and look for someone to sponsor me again and transfer my sponsorship to them which is not easy in this present climate of Saudisation. I completely understand and support the drive for Saudisation. However, I wish that the government would address and look at the situation of women that have come here for marriage and not for economic gain.
“For after a person, and it could be any person, spends a certain amount of time in any place, they inherit their friends, their place in society, and their sense of well being and security. I believe there is an Arabic saying that says that if you spend 40 days with some people you become like them. Well, I have spent almost 25 years of my life here and would like to feel a bit more secure about my situation than someone who has just come to this country for work.
“Today I find myself in a very vulnerable position as a mother of a 13-year-old girl and a widow expatriate without a sponsor. I am not sure how the laws will apply in this particular case but what if I fail to find a sponsor before the grace period runs out; someone kind enough to understand my dire straits and do the honourable thing of granting myself and my daughter unconditional sponsorship without unreasonable demands?
“It is not easy to find such sponsors. Especially under the current climate where many are afraid to lend their names to any expatriate. It would have to be one of my husband’s relatives or associates, but as I had said earlier, it certainly would not be anyone from his family. They were against the marriage from the start, and went out of their way to try to break our marriage. It was only my husband’s devotion to me and our little girl that prevented them from succeeding. Now they blame me for his early death, not realizing the empty hole of my existence each waking moment.
“But I have to put my misery to the side and seek a solution. I fear the outcome if I cannot succeed. Would that mean that the country I spent many years in with my Saudi husband and raised my little girl would no longer be home and that I would be forced out? Is that fair and just? We have broken no laws. We were simply deserted. I am sure there are other women in similar situations like mine, but there isn’t much clarity in the news about how our situation can be alleviated without separation from the land we have come to call home.
“My hope in writing this letter to you is that perhaps you can take your eloquent pen and write an article that might address this situation. Thank you for your taking your time to read my letter. Sincerely, C.”
That was indeed a difficult letter to put down. The loss from the death of a spouse is hard enough to bear but the double whammy of not being secure of one’s residency is a staggering load of concern. I wish I could address her uncertainties with complete reassurance, but the truth of the matter is that I myself do not have the answers for someone in her situation. If some reader does, then perhaps they could enlighten us all.