- Last week, The New York Times published a story about an American woman who had been unable to leave Saudi Arabia with her 4-year-old daughter because her ex-husband had let her residency expire.
- On Sunday, Bethany Vierra told The Times that the Saudi government had since issued her residency, allowing her to travel freely and use her bank account.
- But she still won’t be able to take her daughter with her to visit family in the US, because the girl’s father has executed his right as the girl’s guardian not to let his daughter travel internationally.
The Saudi Arabian government has intervened in the case of a 31-year-old American woman whose ex-husband had barred her from leaving the country.
The New York Times published a story last week detailing the struggle Bethany Vierra, originally of Washington state, who was trying to take her 4-year-old Saudi-American daughter, Zaina, to visit family in the US.
Vierra had Zaina after moving to the Kingdom in 2011 and marrying a local man, who her cousin asked the Times not to name, for fear of angering his family.
The marriage eventually fell apart and the couple divorced last year, according to The Times, but because of the country’s patriarchal “guardianship” laws, Vierra’s ex maintained the power to bar both her and her daughter from leaving the country.
Not only did he refuse to give her permission to visit her family for Christmas this year, Vierra’s cousin Nicole Carroll said, he also further complicated the situation by letting Vierra’s residency expire. That meant that she was living illegally in the country, and couldn’t leave or use her bank account.
On Sunday, Vierra told The Times that the Saudi government got involved after hearing her story and granted her residency “within hours”.
Vierra was granted a relatively new form of residency given to the mothers of Saudi children. She had been unable to get that status before because her husband refused to provide her with the paperwork, Carroll told the Times.
With her new residency, Vierra is now free to travel outside the country and use her bank account again. But she won’t be able to take her daughter with her on any trips to the US, since the girl’s father remains her guardian and has continued to refuse her permission to leave.
According to Saudi law, he will remain her guardian until she marries, at which point guardianship transfers to her husband. Enforcing this law has become high tech as well. As INSIDER’s Bill Bostock has reported, men in Saudi Arabia can grant their wards permission to travel with an app called Absher.
It’s unclear whether Saudi authorities will intervene again and let Vierra travel with her daughter without her ex-husband’s permission.
Carroll told The Times that Vierra’s ex-husband recently sued her, and that the estranged couple have several cases pending in Saudi courts.
Vierra wanted to make it clear to The Times that she was never planning to flee the country with her daughter.
“I was never trying to escape Saudi Arabia,” she told the paper. “I have dedicated my life’s work to this country and being a part of its growth, development and vision for its future.”
- Read more:
- The American woman whose ex-husband was forcing her to stay in Saudi Arabia now has legal residency – but even if she travels, she would have to leave her 4-year-old daughter behind
- Saudi Arabia’s repressive guardianship laws are trapping these women in desperate situations they have little chance of escaping
- Women’s club The Wing has condemned the government of Saudi Arabia, whose money helped fund its expansion
- ‘Grotesque’: Marco Rubio leads intense criticism of Google for refusing to pull down Saudi government app that lets men track and control women
- Google, siding with Saudi Arabia, refuses to remove widely criticized government app which lets men track women and control their travel