US woman, 4-year-old daughter 'trapped' in Saudi Arabia after she divorced 'abusive' Saudi husband
Bethany Vierra, 31, originally from Washington state, moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at a women's university. She met her husband there and the two got married in 2013.
A woman from the United States, who divorced her Saudi businessman husband, is reportedly stuck in the kingdom with their young daughter because of the country's restrictions on women.
The woman, identified as 31-year-old Bethany Vierra, has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2011. Vierra, originally from Washington state, moved to the kingdom to teach at a women's university and met her future husband there. The couple married in Portugal in 2013 and have a four-year-old daughter, according to the New York Times.
However, their relationship went down a spiral as Vierra claimed her husband was emotionally and verbally abusive towards her. The pair divorced in 2018.
Vierra's family has said that, ever since her divorce, the 31-year-old has been stuck in the country because of its stringent guardianship system under which women are often only as free as their male "guardians" — husbands, fathers or other male relatives — allow them to be. Vierra is a dual Saudi-American citizen and her ex-husband is still considered her and her daughter's guardian.
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
Reports state that women in Saudi Arabi have to seek formal permission from their male guardians to study, get married or even renew their passports.
The teacher's family says that her former husband deliberately let her residency run out last month, which means that her stay in Saudi Arabia is now illegal and she no longer has access to her bank accounts. Reports state that, even if she manages to leave the kingdom, her daughter will not be permitted to leave unless she receives permission from her father.
"She is completely stuck. She is out of options," Vierra's cousin Nicole Carroll, while talking to the Times, said. Vierra has not yet commented on the issue.
The report comes after a Saudi teenager took to social media to raise alarm about her plight and escaped to Thailand last month. The girl, 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed, was eventually granted asylum in Canada where she currently resides.
Rahaf, who has renounced her last name al-Qunun, caught global attention in January after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand and tweeted on social media, asking for help. Rahaf, in a series of tweets, pleaded for help saying authorities in Bangkok were planning to send her back to Saudi Arabia.
"My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair," the teenager wrote on Twitter. "I’m sure 100 percent they will kill me as soon as I get out of Saudi jail.” She'd also posted videos from the airport. Rahaf's family denied abuse and has reportedly disowned her.