“D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” [Archives:1998/20/Culture]

May 18 1998

Divorce and broken homes are quite common in Yemen, representing a grave danger to the ethics and morals of Yemeni society. Children are the first to suffer, torn by loyalties to their father and mother, they grow up differently from others in healthier homes. Statistics show that children of broken homes are more prone to psychological disorders than others living with both parents.
Following are real-life examples.
* Ms. Safaa is a mother of two boys and two girls from Taiz:
“My first husband was from another family. We lived happily with our two daughters. He loved me more than himself, until his family came to visit us.
“It seemed as if they were offended by our happiness. My husband’s mother and her spinster daughters started making up all sorts of malicious stories, becoming quite creative at that. As soon as my husband returned from work, his mother and sisters would complain spitefully about me. Unfortunately he never doubted his mother.
“After telling him that I called her names and humiliated her, my mother-in-law was really delighted when my husband beat me in front of her. My father-in-law saw all of this and was on my side, but was too weak to stop his family. All he did was to talk quietly to his son to try to make him see light, but the mother’s influence was far stronger.
“It suffices to say that our marriage was destroyed, despite all my attempts to hold it together. To add insult to injury, my ex-husband took our two daughters to live with his family in the village. I have not been allowed to see them for the last four years.”
* Ms. Fatima is a mother of three sons and two daughters from Sanaa:
“My husband divorced me because he doubted my fidelity, without any proof to his suspicions. He forcibly took my children to live with his mother, who had a lot to do with our break-up. It is almost three years since a I last saw my children, a chance to see them again seems to be very remote.”
* Ms. Safiya is a mother of two sons from Taiz:
“I married a man – not one of my relatives , we met while I was living in Kuwait. He asked for my hand in marriage from my poor parents without consulting with his family back in Hadhramaut, Yemen.
“We lived in Kuwait for six years ant then came to Yemen ‘just to visit,’ as he said. Despite my many apprehensions about this visit, my ex-husband insisted. We were met with very irate in-laws. My worst fears materialized, ending with divorce. I have not seen my kids for more than a year now.”
* A child’s tragic story
A 20-year-old Yemeni woman and her sister, who were living with their parents in Kuwait were in desperation when their father divorced their mother, and married a Kuwaiti woman. The girl, her sister and her mother were left to make a living for themselves. With an uneducated mother, the two sisters – still at school – were just unable to cope.
“When in university, the situation became very depressing for the older sister. On one very gray morning, she went up to the 11th floor of her university hostel in Kuwait, and jumped to her death. The mother lost her mind and became a lunatic roaming the streets of Kuwait city. The father just did not seem to be perturbed at all.
By Safiya M. Abdulaziz