US Mom Loses Custody Of Daughter In Saudi Arabia As She Is 'Too Western To Raise A Child'

US Mom Loses Custody Of Daughter In Saudi Arabia As She Is 'Too Western To Raise A Child'

Bethany Vierra, 32, is ready to take this appeal further and even make it an international incident. The child has temporarily been taken away from her custody as she has until Sunday to appeal the decision.

In 2011, American teacher Bethany Vierra moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at a local university. Earlier this July, she received word from the Saudi government that she would lose custody of her 4-year-old daughter Zaina because she is considered "too western" to raise her child there.

US and Saudi are generally in good relations even though the more orthodox adherents of Sharia law in Saudi often criticize American and Western culture. With regards to Sharia law and orthodoxy itself, Saudi is definitely on the more conservative side among the middle-eastern countries as compared to say, Lebanon or Jordan.



But let's talk about Vierra's unfortunate circumstance a bit more. Bethany Vierra is 32-years-old and hails from Washington. When she was told by the government in Saudi Arabia that she would lose custody of her daughter due to her Western culture, her parents grew anxious and made a public statement on CNN.

"If Zaina can't leave, she won't leave," Bethany's mother Kathi said, from their home in Wenatchee, Washington. "We love our granddaughter," her father Myron also said. "I think our deepest fear is that we might not ever see her again."



The custody issue happened right as she got divorced and wanted to keep their daughter from her ex-husband. However, following her request, the Saudi government instead went against her favor and ruled her unfit to raise the child.

Judge Abdul-Ellah ibn Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said last month that "The mother is new to Islam, is a foreigner in this country, and continues to definitively embrace the customs and traditions of her upbringing. We must avoid exposing Zaina to these customs and traditions, especially at this early age,". Judge al-Tuwaijri was the one who passed the verdict denying Vierra custody of her daughter.





According to the court, her ex-husband's attorney pointed out her social media profile out to the judges, where it was revealed that she had shared pictures of her visit to events like 'Burning Man' and has several other pictures in scantily clad outfits. These points were used as evidence to show that she is too "western' and lives "un-Islamic" lifestyle. Well, it certainly seemed to work out as the judge ended up ruling against her favor. 



However, Bethany didn't go down without a fight. She responded to her ex-husband's counsel's allegations by telling the court that it was in fact him not her, who was actually the unfit parent. She told the court that he was a verbally abusive person and took drugs.

This was confirmed by her mother back in the US. "There was drug use and that became an issue," her mother told CNN. Her ex-husband denied these allegations and refused to speak to the press.



The verdict was ultimately decided that the custody of Zaina would temporarily go to her Saudi grandmother, who lives with Zaina's father. "The fact that the father is residing with his mother is likely a temporary situation," wrote the judge.

"Knowing that it is in men's nature not to stay at home and not to honor/fulfill parental role themselves." Bethany was given until this Sunday to appeal the custody ruling given by the judge. 



Her parents have anxiously informed CNN that there is even a warrant out for her arrest. Apparently, she had missed a child visitation from her ex-husband - something that her parents said she was totally unaware of. But due to that, she has been banned from leaving Saudi Arabia for the next 10 years.

While that wouldn't sound too bad if she had her child with her, the fact that she may not be allowed to live with her daughter would devastate her. "She wants to have the right to go and come. She used to have that right," says Bethany's father. He says a judge also warned his daughter not to talk to the media. "She's working within the system," he says. "She respects the Saudi government."


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