32-year-old Bethany Vierra lost custody of Zaina, her 4-year-old daughter because she was ‘too Western to raise the child,’ according to a court in Saudi Arabia.
The court determined that Vierra was too ‘new to Islam.’
Judge Abdul-Ellah ibn Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said: “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.”
The 32-year-old mother had moved to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to teach at a university.
Her ex-husband’s lawyers used her trip to Burning Man, dubbing it “the world’s strangest festival’ where partygoers ‘appear in crazy clothes and stay awake all night dancing and surrounded by people wearing only shoes made of fur, or drinking drugs (sic) or cold drinks.”
His lawyers also used her social media that was “full of nudity, intermingling of the two sexes and a lot of things and actions contrary to our religion and customs and traditions.”
Vierra claimed that her ex-husband used drugs and was verbally abusive but he denied those allegations. Her mother, Kathi Vierra, explained: “There was drug use and that became an issue.”
Custody was granted to the child’s Saudi grandmother, who lives with her father.
“The fact that the father is residing with his mother is likely a temporary situation,” the judge said. “Knowing that it is in men’s nature not to stay at home and not to honor/fulfill parental role themselves.”
In Saudi Arabia, a testimony of a woman is only worth half of that of a man’s.
“In court, she’s treated like a child. Like a minor,” Vierra’s mother expressed.
A US State Department official said that they are aware of the issue. “Speaking generally, the U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas. US citizens abroad are subject to local laws,” they said.
“If Zaina can’t leave, she won’t leave,” Vierra’s mother expressed. Vierra’s father added: “We love our granddaughter. I think our deepest fear is that we might not ever see her again.”
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