Yemen’s Romeo and Juliet saga continues

Published on 16 January 2014 in News
Ali Abulohoom (author)

Ali Abulohoom

Protestors outside one of Huda’s court hearings.

Protestors outside one of Huda’s court hearings.

SANA’A, Jan. 15—The Bani Al-Harith Court in Sana’a this week sent a formal letter to the family of a young Saudi Arabian woman who illegally crossed the border to marry her Yemeni boyfriend in October of last year. The court letter asks Huda Al-Niran’s family in Saudi Arabia, who are opposed to the marriage, to either come to the court or depute someone to give Huda to her boyfriend, Arafat Radfan, in marriage.

Yemenis were swept away by the romantic tale of Huda and Arafat in the fall of last year after the couple was taken into custody for Huda’s illegal entrance into Yemen.

In November, Huda was granted asylum by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who said that returning her to her family in Saudi Arabia would put her life at risk. Her parents reportedly threatened the girl with abuse.  

Huda disobeyed her family when she spurned the suitor her parents had chosen for her and ran away from home in search of Arafat.

The couple says they hope to marry as soon as possible.  

According to Yemeni law, a man who is not a family member can be entrusted to offer a woman’s hand in marriage by proxy if he has the permission of her legal guardian or the permission of a judge.

The court’s prosecutor, Ridwan Al-Ansi, said that if Huda’s family refuses to either attend or deputize someone to marry her, he can assign a judge to preside over her marriage to Arafat when she reaches the legal age of consent, 20-years-old.

“We will wait for a response from Huda’a family. [If they do not respond] we will move ahead with the legal process that gives Huda the right to marry,” Al-Ansi said.  

An attorney at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Sana’a, Abduallah Al-Mujahid, declined to comment on the case because of the sensitivity of this issue.

In late November last year, Huda was moved from the immigration prison in Sana’a, where she had been held since her arrest, to Dar Al-Amal, a shelter for homeless women.  

But Huda’s attorney, Albdualraqeeb Al-Qadhi, will not be happy until the girl is released from government custody. He considers Dar Al-Amal another prison because she is not allowed to leave the shelter even though she was exonerated by the court, along with Arafat.

“Huda is now imprisoned in Dar Al-Amal and that is certainly in conflict with her asylum status, which gives a person the right to freedom of movement and also to live wherever he or she wants,” Al-Qadhi said

A week ago, Huda presented a formal request to the Bani Al-Harith court seeking permission to marry Arafat.

The Court of First Instance, a criminal court, acquitted Arafat of the charge of assisting Huda with illegal entry into Yemen almost two months ago. However, the Yemeni Passport Authority, along with the Saudi Embassy, have challenged the ruling.

The Court of Appeals has summoned him to appear at a hearing on Thursday.