A woman provided video footage to the court, proving that her ex-husband was abusing drugs in front of their daughter. However, after the judge saw a photo of the woman in her bikini, full custody was granted to the drug-abusing father.
When Bethany Vierra first met her Muslim husband, the Western woman believed their cultural differences could be overcome by love. Although interests are undeniably malleable, she didn’t realize that our core values simply must be compatible for a marriage to even stand a chance.
Just a few years ago, the American woman made a major sacrifice for love, moving from Washington state to Saudi Arabia with her devout Muslim husband, who was a successful businessman. Vierra gladly gave up her way of life to adapt to the strict Sharia culture in the nearly 100-percent Muslim country. Soon, however, she’d be forced to give up her child.
After a short but troubled marriage, Vierra filed for divorce in Saudi Arabia. As nearly all mothers do during such a proceeding, she filed for custody of the pair’s 4-year-old daughter, Zeina. Although women are often granted custody and child support almost immediately in the United States, Vierra quickly realized that Sharia law holds religion above all else.
According to The New York Times, despite providing the Sharia court with video evidence capturing her ex-husband using illegal drugs in front of their daughter, Vierra was denied custody after her ex showed the judge photos of her wearing a bikini and behaving Westernized. The father, who Vierra asked the media to refrain from identifying as not to provoke him further, submitted pictures of her in a bathing suit, yoga pants, and with her hair uncovered, all of which are means of dress that are forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
Vierra attempted to explain that the photos were taken in the United States and could only be found on her private social media accounts, Independent reports. However, her defense was dismissed in favor of her husband’s accusations. The court subsequently rejected footage she provided of her ex-husband smoking marijuana, talking about his drug use, and screaming abuse at her in front of their daughter.
“It’s videos versus male witnesses,” Ms. Vierra said. “They wouldn’t in some cases even look at the evidence that I had. It was just completely disregarded because he ‘swore to God.’ It’s all been infuriating.”
Her ex-husband later admitted abusing illegal drugs but claimed that Vierra had forced him to take them. He then berated her for not speaking Arabic well and claimed that she was too Westernized to be a good influence on their daughter, as the courts value Islamic upbringing over all else.
Ultimately, both Vierra and her ex-husband lost full custody of Zeina, as the court determined that they were equally unfit to raise the girl. However, thanks to a legal loophole, custody was granted to the ex-husband’s mother, who lives in the same house as her son. The decision was opposed by Vierra, who says that her ex-sister-in-law testified that her mother had emotionally and physically abused her and her siblings as children.
Vierra heartbreakingly told the media that Zeina is both scared and confused by the court’s decision. However, she promised her daughter that she won’t give up fighting for her until she wins her back.
“This is not just my story — there’s much worse,” she said, describing women she said she had met who had gone through similarly grueling custody battles in Saudi Arabia. “It’s hard to believe stuff like this can happen.”
Although Vierra has decided to remain in Saudi Arabia in order to fight for her daughter’s return, she continues to do things that will surely hinder her chances, including boasting of her plan to open the country’s first yoga studio.
The only way that Vierra will get custody of her daughter is if the rest of the world places pressure on Saudi Arabia to return her daughter to her. Sadly, it is common for women to lose custody of their children in the event of divorce. Under Sharia law, fathers are favored to be legal guardians, as they are considered the best to teach their children religious piety.