RIYADH: An American woman estranged from her Saudi husband has denied claims that she is trapped in the Kingdom by Saudi guardianship laws.
“This is my home,” Bethany Vierra, 31, told Arab News. “I’ve worked hard in building a community, a company here and a home for my daughter and me. I am here to stay in Saudi Arabia.”
Reports in some Western media suggested that Vierra was being forced to remain in the Kingdom because her estranged husband had failed to renew her residency. In fact, as the mother of Zaina, 4 — a Saudi citizen — Vierra has a legal right of permanent residency without a sponsor.
Not only that, she has no wish to leave. “I was never trying to escape Saudi Arabia,” she said. “I have dedicated my life’s work to this country and being a part of its growth, development, and vision for its future.”
A law issued in 2013 by then Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz states that the non-Saudi mother of Saudi children is to be granted permanent residence in the Kingdom without the need for a sponsor. It added that the State shall bear the fees for her residence and she would be allowed to work in the private sector, and she shall be included within Saudization ratios.
Vierra, who has lived in Riyadh since 2011 and runs her own business, believes that a custody dispute over Zaina between her and her estranged husband may have led to a misunderstanding over her situation.
“I’m not trying to politicize my divorce; this is not a guardian issue,” she said. “As soon as the Saudi authorities were aware of my situation, they intervened and within hours my residency issue was solved. I commend the Saudi authorities for addressing our issue so promptly, and to everyone in my community here that has so graciously helped my daughter and myself along the way.”
Vierra is also keen for her daughter to grow up in Saudi Arabia, and to have regular contact with her father and his family. “I want her to know and understand that she is a Saudi.”
Here’s a full statement Ms. Vierra issued through her lawyer, Hazim Madani:
“I would like it to be made clear that I was never trying to escape Saudi Arabia. I have dedicated my life’s work to this country and being a part of its growth, development, and vision for its future. I am proud to have worked hard to build a community, a business and a life here for my daughter and myself.
“As soon as the Saudi authorities were aware of my situation, they intervened and within hours my residency issue was solved. I commend the Saudi authorities for addressing our issue so promptly, and to everyone in my community here that has so graciously helped my daughter and myself along the way.
“I filed my cases in the Saudi court system because I have faith that justice will be provided there. Despite the fact that it may take some time to get those cases resolved (as in any other Country in the world) eventually I do believe I have a good chance to reach to my goal. As my court cases are still ongoing, I ask that the privacy of my family is respected during this very sensitive time.”