Bethany Vierra’s story in Saudi Arabia and her battle with the courts to secure her 4-year-old child’s custody is taking the media and internet by storm.
Vierra, who came to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to live with her husband and daughter initiating her own business in the Kingdom, has entered a court battle with her ex-husband a few months ago after she asked for a divorce from her abusive spouse and wanted to secure her daughter’s custody.
However, the Saudi court and laws were not in her favor.
According to the Saudi Sharia law, mothers get custody of their children until they turn 9-years old for the boys, and 7 for girls while fathers remain their legal guardian. But, courts should also ensure the kids are raised in accordance with Islam.
However, last week a Saudi judge ruled that custody of Vierra’s daughter, Zeina, should go to her father’s mother. This is despite the fact that Vierra submitted evidence showing Zeina’s father was doing drugs and is verbally abusing the mother, the New York Times reported.
In response, Vierra’s ex-husband also submitted photos of the mom in a bikini, in yoga pants and with her hair uncovered proving she is in violation of the Sharia in the Kingdom and which makes her “unfit” for the custody of the daughter.
The judge then wrote in his ruling: “Since the mother is new to Islam and a foreigner in this country and embraces customs and traditions in the way she was raised… we must avoid exposing Zeina to these traditions.”
The story has caught the attention of many activists around the world.
It also highlights Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system and the discriminatory laws women face in the courts.
Bethany Vierra and her daughter, Zaina, in a picture provided by Ms. Vierra’s cousin. The two are stuck in Saudi Arabia because of a combination of residency and guardianship laws that give men power.— MelødyJ@cobs ???? (@madi_jacobs) March 6, 2019
CreditSandra Black pic.twitter.com/GMXztaELnP
Activists have also launched a campaign in solidarity with Vierra to help her keep the custody of her young daughter.
https://t.co/0aDHDFnPC9 Thanks @ELLEmagazine @RoseMinutaglio for bringing awareness to Bethany and Zaina. We have a petition at @Fight4Zaina to help Zaina gain freedom of movement rights #Fight4Zaina #WomensRights— Alexis Bushnell (@Alexis_Bushnell) June 17, 2019
Released by NY Times - GOP doesn't nd this publicity 4 2020 elecs.— Blanche V. Mercaldi (@tammytabby) March 11, 2019
Bethany Vierra, US citizen, moved to Saudi Arabia to research graduate degree -trapped there by Saudi's draconian “guardianship laws.” - married & divorced Saudi man - has child & Saudi won't permit her to leave. pic.twitter.com/PxAg2xOrlS
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