Lebanese protesters demand release of mother detained in custody battle
The mother of Roula Yacoub, a victim of domestic violence, holds a portrait of her deceased daughter during a rally on "International Women's Day" on March 8, 2014 in front of the National Museum in Beirut, Lebanon. (AFP/File)
Friends and sympathizers of a mother detained for refusing to hand over her child to her estranged husband protested in a Beirut suburb Saturday to demand her release.
The protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, blocking the entrance to the Haret Hreik suburb south of Beirut, and chanted slogans in condemnation of Fatima Ali Hamzeh's detention.
One slogan read, "Your turban is soaked with tears of mothers and children."
The demonstrators also voiced calls for amendments to the current civil status laws that do not grant women equal rights as men.
The protesters later marched towards the nearby Ghobeiry Police Station, where Fatima is being held, and protested there.
Three hours after the protest had started, the crowds flocked to the nearby court in Ghobeiry off Beirut's southern Airport Road.
Fadia Hamzeh, Fatima's sister and lawyer, refused to say where the 3-1/2-year-old child was.
Protester Zeina Ibrahim told MTV from outside the court that the demonstration was not just for the release of Fatima's child, but about changing the law so other women don't have to go through similar ordeals.
"This is the first time that our country witnesses this many people protesting against a religious authority in Lebanon," she said.
Hamzeh, a school teacher, was arrested outside her Beirut southern suburb home on Wednesday following a complaint from her husband.
The hashtag “With Fatima against the Jaafari Court” has been trending on Twitter and Facebook in Arabic. Many users shared their own experiences of domestic violence and suffering due to loss of custody of their children.
The Shiite Jaafari religious court had granted Fatima’s husband custody over their 3-1/2-year-old toddler.
Fatima’s husband had allegedly forced her out of their marital home and married another woman, leaving her in charge of raising the toddler.
The authority to look into civil status cases like marriage, divorce and inheritance is granted to religious courts, according to the Lebanese law.
Members of local groups that defend women's rights have previously attempted to persuade the vice-president of the Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan to raise the age of when a father is granted custody of his son to be similar to other Muslim and Christian authorities.
The council currently gives custody of boys to their father once they turn two.
“We were met with sarcasm from Qabalan,” Zeina Ibrahim, an activist with “Protecting Lebanese Women” that organized the protest, told Al-Jadeed in a report Friday.
Following Saturday's protest, Fadia Hamzeh, Fatima’s sister and lawyer, said on Facebook that Speaker Nabih Berri has intervened to try to release the mother.
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