Can we be civilized in divorce?

Marhaba to all.

This is my first post to Arabisto and I’m really glad to be a part of this online community. Thank you Nadia for inviting me to join!


It’s hard to choose a topic to start with. The most interesting quote I heard this week was from my friend Ms. Manal Radwan. In a panel presentation on women’s empowerment, she stated, “When women’s rights are not protected, men’s rights are equally violated”. What a great comment! True on so many levels – and I’ll illustrate this concept with the issue of international parental custody as it related to Middle Eastern Countries. As far as I know – in Islam – the child’s welfare is paramount and the child’s right to its parents is to be respected.


Children should ideally have the support and emotional comfort of having easy access to both parents in a safe and supportive environment. Why is it that in the Middle East we do not have any remedy to address the critical ever-growing issue of international child custody – sometimes termed as abduction? It’s as almost as if Middle Eastern countries have decided to aid and abet in the cycle of power and control, and view families at risk as opposing sides and each country will only support it's citizen with the tribal “with or against us” policy. Currently the all too familiar scenario of the father abducting the children to his home country and the mother completely unable to access or contact her children is the norm.


There are more cases between Egypt and Saudi or Jordan and the UAE than there are cases of parental abduction between the Middle East and USA. What prevents us from adopting a civilized system where parents agree (helped by laws, policies and processes such as mediation) on sharing custody and ensuring the well being of their children in a civilized manner? With the current situation – the ultimate victims are the children, who according to much research - present a host of mental, psychological and emotional issues long after their have reached adulthood as a result of the trauma and separation.


The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction has been adopted by many countries in the world – to date no Arab or Muslim Country has ratified the convention. It might not be the ideal solution – but it’s a start.

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About Lena Alhusseini

Ms. Alhusseini joined the Arab American Family Support Center as Executive Director in April 06 after a number of years at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), where she served as international outreach project manager on issues of child protection, abduction and child trafficking. Prior to joining NCMEC, Alhusseini worked for the Gateway Battered Women’s Shelter in Denver, Colorado where she developed the Shelter’s children’s program and worked with immigrant populations including Arab-American women and children. Before coming to the U.S., Alhusseini served with a number of international organizations around the world on issues pertaining to child protection and human trafficking, including USAID and UNICEF. Most notably, she established the Jordan River Foundation’s child protection unit under the direction of HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah. That organization was the first in Jordan to address the issue of child abuse. Born in Jerusalem and raised in Saudi Arabia and the UK, Alhusseini is of Palestinian origin.

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