• July 21, 2003
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    New Hope for Christian Widow
New Hope for Christian Widow The latest developments in Siham?s case (received in June from Middle East Concern) are fourfold. Firstly, Prince Mired bin Raed is continuing to give his help, which he promised to do in April.

Secondly, a court case in Amman requested by Siham?s lawyers in May, giving evidence that her estranged Muslim brother fraudulently handled the benefit money that he was supposed to hold on behalf of her children, has hit difficulties. The lawyer appointed by Prince Mired has been replaced because of a family connection with the judge who authorised Siham?s brother?s withdrawal of money from the benefit account. This means the case will now focus on the brother?s lack of interest in the children, rather than on his embezzling money.

Thirdly, her children, Rawan (15) and Fadi (13) are thinking of starting their own court case against their uncle, which is their right under Shari?ah. To do this they must obtain from a Shari?ah court a certificate of eligibility allowing them to submit a case in a civil court. They have been unable to get this as yet.

Fourthly, Siham is planning to appeal against the ruling that she has to hand over her children, on the grounds that the case in Amman is challenging her brother?s custody.

BACKGROUND


Siham?s tragic case began with the death of her husband in 1994. When Siham tried to claim her widow?s pension from the army (her husband had been a soldier) she was astonished to be told that he had allegedly converted to Islam and therefore under Shari?ah and Jordanian law as a Christian she could not inherit from him. A certificate of conversion was produced dated 1991 and signed by 2 witnesses, but only marked with a cross in the space where Siham?s husband?s signature should have been. The family have always disputed that the alleged conversion ever took place. After his supposed conversion, Siham?s husband attended the Christian baptism of his son. Furthermore, his death certificate states he was a Christian and he had a Christian burial.

Despite this, Siham was advised that she would never win a case contesting the truth of her husband?s conversion. However, since legally her children were considered to be the children of a convert to Islam, and therefore Muslims, they could claim the benefits entitled to the family if they (as minors) had a Muslim to act as legal guardian. Therefore, on paper only, Siham entrusted them to the legal guardianship of her brother Abdullah al-Muhtadi (who converted to Islam 20 years earlier and is now an Imam) in April 1995. For a number of years Abdullah received the family?s benefits, although he kept most of the money for himself and never forwarded it to Siham and her children leaving them desperately short of money.

As the children became older Abdullah started objecting to their Christian faith and attendance at a Christian school. In May 1998 he applied for full custody on the grounds that they were being raised as Christians despite being Muslims in the eyes of the law. In June 2001 Abdullah?s case was won in the local Civil Court in Irbid, it was later upheld in the Irbid Court of Appeals in January 2002 and finally in February 2002 it was upheld by the Supreme Court in Amman. In April 2002 Siham was ordered to give up custody of her children, so the family went into hiding.

In May 2002 in response to international lobbying Jordanian authorities met with Siham and assured her that she would be allowed to keep her children. However, when she came out of hiding the authorities reneged on this. On 7 October 2002 Siham received a letter stating that unless she handed over her children in five days they would be seized. The family therefore went back into hiding. There are no higher courts to which Siham can appeal and the family cannot leave the country as the children are known to immigration officials. A female Muslim lawyer contacted Siham and suggested that she could keep her children if she simply converts to Islam. There are particular concerns that if Siham?s daughter Rawan is taken from her, as Muslim relatives may force her to marry a Muslim effectively sealing her conversion to Islam in their eyes.

On 20 January 2003 a court issued an order requiring Siham to be imprisoned for 30 days unless she immediately surrenders her children to the care of Abdullah to be raised as Muslims. Siham?s lawyers appealed against the ruling. A deadline of 5 February was given. However, when Siham continued to refuse to give up her children no action was taken against her. In April she was granted a one-month delay in implementing the order to imprison her, while her lawyers fought a court case against her brother. Despite this delay now having expired Siham is still free as of this date.

PRAY


Pray for Siham, Rawan and Fadi that the Lord will continue to comfort, encourage, protect, bless and support them at this distressing time.

Pray that Prince Mired?s protection will ensure that this Christian family are not broken up.

Pray that the many court cases underway and pending will allow the family to remain together.

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