New ban on marriage to foreigners stirs controversy

In this file photo, Saudi women attend the Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In this file photo, Saudi women attend the Janadriyah Festival of Heritage and Culture on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

JEDDAH — In a recent report published by Makkah daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia, a new law bans Saudi men from marrying women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Burma. Social media forums like Twitter and Facebook reacted with both humor and horror over the new ruling.

According to the newspaper, a man should be older than 25 years of age to be able to apply for a permit to marry a foreigner.

If, however, he was recently divorced, he has to wait six months before applying for the license. If he is married and wishes to take a foreign woman as a second wife, he has to present proof that his first wife has cancer, is barren or crippled by a disability.

“Only men could have come up with a rule that supports their claims, grants them more pleasure and maximum satisfaction. Look at how it makes Saudi men look, since pride is of utmost importance. It feels like a grotesque HBO drama series,” Lina Al Sayed, a 35-year-old Saudi doctor said.

An Egyptian writer and public speaker, Mona Eltahewy, tweeted: “Women in Saudi can’t be polygamous but imagine a woman demanded divorce because her husband got cancer. She’d be cursed till end of time.”

Major General Assaf Qureshi, director of Makkah police, reportedly told the Saudi paper that marriage requests for foreign nationals are processed through official procedures under very strict terms.

“I don’t understand why it is so difficult to get married to a Saudi national. There are too many conditions or agents ask for a great deal of money to get your papers processed. Now on top of that, they are going to ban marriage to these four nationalities. Why? This isn’t Islam. Our religion even allows men to marry Jews and Christians, so why are we disputing this? On top of that, you make foreign women look like replacement tools. We are not what you can use if your first wife is disabled or dying. Saudi men should be able to choose us first if they like,” Farah Aboodi, a 26-year-old Irish national living in Jeddah said.

Saudis need to submit an application to a government committee and wait for their approval or rejection if they wish to marry a foreigner.

Usama Hussain, a Pakistani national, joked in a post on Facebook: “The Kingdom has done a huge favor to the lucky women of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Burma (Rohingya women included). Women of other nationalities should come forward and demand the same treatment.”

Lillith, a Twitter user posted, “I know some Saudi men who got married while their wives were admitted in the hospital for end of life or kidney failure and I was like dude, can’t you just wait a couple of months until she dies. It is despicable how wives are discarded so easily.”

Many discussions raised questions about polygamy having any religious justification in today’s time.

A Lebanese national living in Riyadh said other non-Saudi countries are confused as to why they weren’t chosen to be a part of a selective campaign.

“It almost feels like they chose all the refugee countries and believe it or not, this might be a great thing. No more financial support needed in exchange for child brides,” Rana Ali said.

The government has not made any official statements clarifying the new restrictions on marrying foreigners.

 
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