Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Azerbaijani/Saudi Relationship: From a Muslim Forum to the Marriage Permission Process


Recently, on John Burgess' blog Crossroads Arabia, an Azerbaijani man commented requesting advice about the marriage permission process for him to marry his Saudi love. He graciously agreed to repeat his questions here, and added a couple of others, in order to share his experience with readers, and get further more specific advice, beyond what I gave him there, and what is written here in the posts in the category Marriage Permission/ Visa/ Iqama and in the Personal Stories.

His own brief story raised 3 main issues when I read it, and which I think are important considerations, both for him, and for others who may find themselves in a similar position. They are briefly addressed below for further discussion. However, let me immediately share his story in his own words, lightly edited.


My name is Javidan. I am a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and a resident of the capital city, Baki. I am a 26-year-old Muslim. 6 months ago I met a girl who is 23 years old on one of the Muslim forums. She is a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and lives in Riyadh. We had a chat, then she sent me her photo (in which she was wearing an abaya), and I really fell in love with her. She also fell in love with me; and, after some time, we agreed to marry. But the girl (I do not want to announce her name) informed me that, according to the laws of Saudi Arabia, it is forbidden for a Saudi woman to marry a non-Saudi man. I want to bring her to Azerbaijan where the national laws allow us to marry foreign citizens. We do not want to live in Saudi Arabia.

Some further background:

She is a tribal Saudi, whose family is originally from the Al-Qassim area. She moved to Riyadh with her parents when she was 10 years old. She is a 2nd year university student studying Management. She hasn't told her parents that she loves exactly me, nor given information about me. She just told her mother and father that she wants to marry a non-Saudi.

Her father objected and said that he would never agree her to marrying a non-Saudi. Her father laughed at the idea, and said that it was forbidden by the laws of Saudi Arabia to marry a foreigner. However, her father probably meant a marriage in Saudi not in another country. After this she replied that would never marry anyone and stay single until her death. Then her father laughed again and said InshaALLAH. Very odd I know, but I think that they perceived her words as not serious.

Only her mother and sister know that she loves me. They imagine me as a guy from other country, but have no more information. They only know that I am Muslim, and were happy for this. However, both recommended she forget about me because her father would never agree.

My friends and family members are entirely supportive and happy about my decision. They are ready to help me within their power. I am working in my country at the moment. I have a salary sufficient to support my family, even if she stays as a housewife. I am planning to live on my own with my wife rather than with family. I have a new luxury flat and a good car. She knows and likes it.

She has never traveled outside Saudi Arabia. She told me that does not possess either a passport or ID. We use English as a common language generally. But I am learning Arabic as well. Furthermore, it will not be difficult for her to live in Azerbaijan as far as language because 40 percent of the Azerbaijani language consists of Arabic words.

Of course, she can have a social life in Azerbaijan and we can find a job for her here,because there is a huge demand for those who know both Arabic and English. But she told me that she doesn't want to work. She prefers to stay at home and bring up children, as her mother did. I told her that I was ready to agree with her what ever she chooses, and to encourage her. She can decide herself to work or not. But if she decides to work, we can find a good job for her here, taking into consideration her Islamic views and origin.

So taking into consideration these premises, my questions for readers are the following:

1-Is it TRUE that Saudi Arabia's laws restrict or forbid its women citizens to marry non-Saudi men? (It is possible that girl was deceived by her parents)

2-Is it permitted, according to Saudi legislation, for Saudi women citizens to marry foreigners outside Saudi, for example, in Azerbaijan? (Because every action in the territory of Azerbaijan is assessed by local legislation under the territorial jurisdiction of the Azerbaijan Republic)

3-Can she apply to the Saudi government for permission to leave the country for marriage with a foreigner? What actions might the government of Saudi Arabia take with respect to her application? What consequences could there be for her.

4-Normally, what must she do to come to Azerbaijan and marry me here? (I love my country and Azerbaijan is a rich oil country, therefore I do not need to live in Saudi Arabia, nor does my love want to live there)

5-May she come to Azerbaijan without her parents’ permission? What documents would she need to prepare in order to come to Azerbaijan?

6-Must she, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apply within the Kingdom for government permission to marry outside Saudi Arabia with a citizen of Azerbaijan Republic?

Please help me with these questions sending me what the requirements of Saudi legislation would be. Thank you very much. I will be waiting for your advice about this, and recommendations.

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu

Javidan


On reading Javidan's story 3 broader issues came to mind: meeting and agreeing to marry on a forum; marriage permission laws for Saudi women; the challenge of moving to a new country to be with a new husband.

Meeting and agreeing to marry on a forum
This has worked well for some couples-- including Abu and Umm Abdullah whose story is here in 3 parts, Part I (with an important update in the comments), Part II, Part III --but has certain risks. As has been pointed out, security assessments are important before engaging in a personal relationship. While these issues don't apply to Javidan and his love, they are important to bear in mind. Ideally the couple would meet in a safe setting before agreeing to something like marriage. Skype is an important second best, perhaps more necessary because of Saudi laws about women traveling.

Marriage permission laws for Saudi women
These are more restrictive it seems than for Saudi men, although there is debate about that. Recent news suggests there is a movement to make it even harder for Saudi women to marry a non-Saudi. Women physicians over 25 have greater latitude as it is deemed that their marriage prospects to Saudis are dim; women over 40 are similarly favoured in the marriage permission process, as their prospects for marrying a Saudi are deemed to be particularly dim.

Moving to a new country to be with a new husband
This can be challenging for anyone, and indeed for a husband joining a wife. In addition to the usual first year of marriage adaptations there is much to adapt to in a new country, and culture, and far from friends and family. However, this is an exciting time and an opportunity as well, and couples do well when they tackle the challenges together.

About that new country


Azerbaijan is a central Asian country on the Caspian Sea whose capital is Baku, where Javidan and his Saudi bride would live. 90% of the population is Azeri (Turkic), and over 90% are Muslim. It is an oil producing country with Baku the oil capital of the country as well. A majority Muslim state, it is none the less a secular democratic republic. A country and a people with a long history, through most of the 20th century Azerbaijan was a republic of the Soviet Union, following on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It has been independent from the Soviet Union since the latter's collapse in 1991. A cease fire in 1994 applies to Ajerbaijan and its neighbour Armenia, in their ongoing dispute over territory and borders on the western side of the country.

Petroglyphs in Gobustan dating back to 10,000 BC indicating a thriving culture;
a UNESCO World Heritage Site--considered to be of "outstanding universal value"

The Maiden Tower (800-1200), Old Baku City

The ornamented gate of Shirvanshah Mausoleum in the Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Bridge of Separation - Ayrılıq Körpüsü in Azerbaijani, on the Azerbaijan-Iran border; 
the two treaties of Gulistan and Turkemenchay divided the Azerbaijani people

Bibi Heybat Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, after restoration in 2008 
(damaged by the Bolsheviks in 1936)

Inside the Dome of Bibi-Eybat mosque

Tombs inside the Bibi-Eybat mosque

Baku, at night

The capital city, Baku, on the Caspian Sea

Another view of Old Baku City

Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature in Baku

Azerbaijani carpet based on the Layla and Majnun novel by Nizami Ganjavi in 12th century


Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall

Famous Russian cellist, Rostropovich, born and raised Baku, Azerbaijan


Academician Prof. Lev Davidovich Landau (Nobel Prize in Physics)
Other famous Azerbaijanis, here

Please share your knowledge, and experience to answer Javidan's questions:

1-Is it TRUE that Saudi Arabia's laws restrict or forbid its women citizens to marry non-Saudi men? (It is possible that girl was deceived by her parents)

2-Is it permitted, according to Saudi legislation, for Saudi women citizens to marry foreigners outside Saudi, for example, in Azerbaijan? (Because every action in the territory of Azerbaijan is assessed by local legislation under the territorial jurisdiction of the Azerbaijan Republic)

3-Can she apply to the Saudi government for permission to leave the country for marriage with a foreigner? What actions might the government of Saudi Arabia take with respect to her application? What consequences could there be for her.

4-Normally, what must she do to come to Azerbaijan and marry me here? (I love my country and Azerbaijan is a rich oil country, therefore I do not need to live in Saudi Arabia, nor does my love want to live there)

5-May she come to Azerbaijan without her parents’ permission? What documents would she need to prepare in order to come to Azerbaijan?

6-Must she, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apply within the Kingdom for government permission to marry outside Saudi Arabia with a citizen of Azerbaijan Republic?

What are your thoughts on the 3 broader themes?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

12 comments:

Susanne said...

I enjoyed learning a bit about this country. Baku is a lovely city!

Wendy said...

As usual you have some beautiful pictures accompanying the blog.

Well, I can't comment on the legalities here but from what I read it will be next to impossible for the girl to leave Saudi by herself.

I would also be worrying about the girl's safety if her father is so against this. That fact that she was keeping it secret says a lot.

I can't imagine a marriage taking place without meeting in person and, for her, meeting his family who will be very important in her life.

I also find it a little strange that he is asking you about the legalities of Saudi.

Why was he reading a Saudi forum if he is not interested in living in the country? Was he looking for a woman? Why? Wouldn't it have been easier for him to find one at home?

What kind of restrictions are placed on women in his country? The fact that it is secular is good but will the girl have problems fitting into this new culture AND climate?

I'll be interested to read more comments and to see what actually happens here.

Chiara said...

Susanne-thanks for your commment. I thought it was important to give some idea of Azerbaijan and Baku as most of us are unfamiliar with this region. Glad you liked the photos! I feel the travel bug biting! Thanks again.

Wendy--thanks for your comment. I think you raised good points about the family dynamics for the woman.

Javidan will respond I'm sure, but as I understand they met on a Muslim rather than a Saudi forum, and then he posted on John Burgess' blog in the hopes of getting reliable information. I invited him to read and post here, as this blog has a number of posts on the legalities and other aspects of the marriage permission process.

I too look forward to the comments of others and hope they will share more of their impressions and knowledge of the legalities and procedures, including whether involving a lawyer at this stage would be better or worse for their situation.

Thanks again for your comment.

Medina said...

1-Is it TRUE that Saudi Arabia 's laws restrict or forbid its women citizens to marry non-Saudi men? (It is possible that girl was deceived by her parents).

Yes It is true that Saudi Arabia restrict marriage from non Saudis but You can apply for permission from the Ministry of Interior. The only one who can issue this approval is Prince Naif, Minister of Interior. According to the official statistics, they issue 25 marriage approvals every week. And there are more restrictions on Saudis for marriage from western countries.

2-Is it permitted, according to Saudi legislation, for Saudi women citizens to marry foreigners outside Saudi, for example, in Azerbaijan ? (Because every action in the territory of Azerbaijan is assessed by local legislation under the territorial jurisdiction of the Azerbaijan Republic ).

Well, if she travels outside Saudi Arabia she can do whatever she likes but her kids and her husband will not get the Saudi nationality and she will be fined according to the last government resolution released in this regard.

3-Can she apply to the Saudi government for permission to leave the country for marriage with a foreigner? What actions might the government of Saudi Arabia take with respect to her application? What consequences could there be for her.

Well, she can apply of course. The one who should submit her application to the Ministry is her mahram, male guardian, her father in your case.

4-Normally, what must she do to come to Azerbaijan and marry me here? (I love my country and Azerbaijan is a rich oil country, therefore I do not need to live in Saudi Arabia , nor does my love want to live there).

She must get her mahram's approval and get permitted from the Saudi government as well according to the new legislation.

Medina said...

...cont'd...

5-May she come to Azerbaijan without her parents’ permission? What documents would she need to prepare in order to come to Azerbaijan ?

She will not be able to have a passport without her mahram's approval. And this movement will endanger her life and cause troubles to her family socially; it will be a real panic for her family. So I strongly do not recommend such suggestion.

6-Must she, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, apply within the Kingdom for government permission to marry outside Saudi Arabia with a citizen of Azerbaijan Republic?

Yes, she must apply for that. She must get her mahra’s approval and get permitted by the Ministry of Interior.

My recommendation is as follows.

Making relationship over the internet is still odd to the Saudi people and many Saudis do not like to say that they know their partners over the internet. So, this makes it a bit hard for her to reveal that to her father even if you were a Saudi. So, I would recommend that you arrange with her and her mum and her sisters that you are willing to travel to Saudi Arabia to ask her hand for marriage (she may get scared because of her father, but do not worry, it will be ok later). When it become very serious, you will find them serious and they will take actions and help you. And they must find their ways to tell her father about how you know her (I prefer that they tell him the truth). Let your mum, call her mum. At first they start by females’ arrangement. It is easy process but you should be brave to take actions. Then, after you get her father’s word (his agreement to your marriage proposal), He will do his best to get permission for you from the government. It is his duty then.

Wish you a happy life and do not do crazy things like asking her to escape from her family, you will make a big tragedy for her life and it will endanger her life especially if she belongs to a tribe. If she has brothers they may track both of you if she escaped and it is also impossible that she can escape because the one who must get passport for her from the government is her mahram except if she has a Saudi ID. Be wise, dude. It is easy process, just go and meet her father and ask her hand for marriage. if she is not able to tell her father, I would suggest that you make friendship with her male relatives before and I recommend that your mum establish friendship with her family. Then, i suggest that when you go to meet her family, come with your mum and father. and I am sure her father will never disappoint you. It is easy, do not feel panic or ask them to meet in Mecca with her family and make Omrah.

Saudi Jawa said...

Medina's post is pretty comprehensive. If Javidan is really serious about this, he should really come to Saudi Arabia and "meet the parents" and attempts to build bridges. I would really advise against Romeo & Juliet style adventures, as they are usually counterproductive in the long run and should only be attempted as last last LAST resort. It's going to be a tough job. Saudi fathers in general are very resistant to marrying their daughters to non-Saudis, much less ones who would take their daughters out of the kingdom. Yet, it must at least be attempted.

Hope things work out for the best.

oby said...

Medina...

I think you are giving very wise counsel to this man. with a few different twists you have just effectively described how my husband and I managed to overcome his parents objection to him marrying a non Indian.

You are right...once the parents come to accept the idea all will be well. It is very scary time especially for the man in some ways as he has to do the asking and face the father...but you are right...he must take the courage to do it.

Once my husband had effectively broken down the "barrier" it was full steam ahead with no looking back on anyone's part. My parents, being American without the tribal culture, were a bit easier to tackle.

Very wise counsel...it worked for me.

JAVIDAN said...

I would like to thank you all for sharing my problem and for you valuable recommendations and inforamations. Since I read these posts, especially Medinas I found out that there is still hope for me. Yes you may think that I have no courage, but wanna let you know that I am only afraid of spoiling my future and loose her. I am afraid that her parents may cut off internet and I will never be able to contact her again. I prefer to read other posts and stay silent. I will ask many questions to those who posted their comments here. I hope you all understand me perfectly. I only suffer from lack of information about Saudi Arabia.

Chiara said...

A Saudi friend asked me to pass on the following message:

All is possible with the blessing and consent of her father.

And the opposite is true. It is impossible (Saudi law as well as Islamic law- Sharia'a) to marry any one with out the consent of her father.

A foreigner can apply for permission to marry if he lives here. or if he wants his future kids to apply for Saudi citizenship. Otherwise he doesn't need it.

But he has to know that he can't enter the country to reside as her husband unless permission was sought and granted from the government. He can visit though.

The major problem is divorce! Or death! What if that happens and she wants to come back home with her kids???

It would take years to get all her papers in order.

Dentographer said...

ok,what i am about to say comes from a reality and from what i witnessed with my own eyes.

this whole story makes perfect sense,its a normal course of progress that happens between a couple who met online and want the relationship to take a step further in a constructive manner according to islamic laws.

the only thing that made me clinch when i read is the place of her descent..Qassim Area is THE most strict area in saudi arabia,its the area where its known that the majority of extremists raise from there.
now,i can see that this might be irrelevant to our couple here,however,its very well known that Qassimi families strictly restrict marriages to other qassimi families,i.e. they consider any other family even if there were SAUDI and from very well known families yet dont belong to Qassim,inferior,and do not allow their daughters to marry them,there is an endless amount of stories you hear about young girls who reached 30+ of age and had an endless amount of proposals that all were rejected cos the father didnt find the groom of a "proper family descent".


this is the norm,but there is always always exceptions,highly depends on the fathers level of education and piety,if he is someone that cares about his family and all that he cares about is for them to have a happy life,with whoever they love,but if he was the kind that traditions and cultural matters takes a big portion of his opinion,then probably he will not agree.

to be honest,i dont know what to tell you,i mean,i am sure the girl knows that,but she wanted to give love a chance,especially with internet and the cyber booming we are going through,i am sure she got fedup from all the stories of marriages that took place not because of intrest,but just because the parents praised it.

i wish u best of luck,and as medina said,her father is your golden key,try your best to win him on your side,if you did that,then 85% of your matter is solved,no one can oppose it if the father agreed,and he is the only one that have enough power to convince the goverment that he indeed want this marriage to take place.

on the positive side,recently the goverment has changed its rules about marriages to non saudis,now if the groom was a non saudi who was born in saudi arabia,and lived there for 15 years,you dont need to request approval from the govermant anymore,even though you dont fall into this category,but it shows you that the goverment is showing leniency toward the matter now and they are not restricting it as before anymore.

now if hopefully the family agreed upon this marriage and inshallah they will,one thing the govermant will hold against you is her age,as they give approvals faster for females who are over 25,as it happend to my friends before,they reject it and say she is still young and she might have a better chance marrying a saudi,and two of my friends had to wait till the bride crossed 25 to get the approval.


i know this might not be the comment that u were looking for,but at least i gave you an insight from within,and you will know how things will take place if it was in your favour,or not.

Majed said...

The story really looks like an internet version of Qais and Laila (Majnoon Laily) , although I do not want to sound pessimistic, though it will not end in death of the lover, it is almost certain to end an unhappy ending , for the following reasons:
- The girl is originally from Al Qassim region, the springhead and citadel of Salafism and is also the din for rigid tribal traditions diehards , who look down and misprize everyone else paradoxically mixing all this with islam.
- Ironically people of Al Qasim who taboo every new invention, but Al Qasim boasts relatively the highest number of internet subscribers, so you can not tell how many prisoners are there who are confined to the jail of traditions , and who only have access to this fictitious widow to see the world through , and to give vent to their supressed emotions and satisfy curiosity, so you dont know how serious this girl might be, may be, she just thinks that you are not real, and may be you are taking her imagination and fantasy too seriously,you know that some girls here supposedly have never spoken to a male other than father and brothers whole their life can you imagine that? , so no wonder she falls in love with first guy talks to her.
- You are from Azerbaijan so mostly like you are a Shia the archenemy of Salafies and she is 100% salafi that makes it next to impossible that you can ever marry her. and in case you are Hanfi or Shafie muslim who both are reletively accomodating and flexible school of thought, you and your people specially elders will find it difficult socializing with her raising an eyebrow and nagging about every action that does not go along with her ideas about real islam.
- you are not an arab she is tribal arab, you like it or not we (unmeritedly) still believe we are superior just like most people do. yes there should be a border line between pride and arrogance and racism which is very hard recognize here i personally can see it.
- you have only seen this girl in romantic and passionate mood, in this mood she might have looked like a butterfly and sounded like nightingale but it is different when you see her little upset with you, and worse when angry, i have seen a lot of girls when they are upset( i am married man and committed muslim and seen here means nothing other than seen) , like: Indonesians, Habashies , Indian , Tunisian , Moroccan they maintain feminine attitude, behave like one remain the same girl that you know even when upset and angry that make you love her the more , but in case of suadi girls they are transformers she will suddely turn into fully equipped terminator that will make you develop a female phobia complex.
i hope this comment is somehow related.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for sharing your insights which are helpful not only to Javidan but to others reading who are in a similar situation.
I know he appreciates all the advice greatly, and is encouraged by it: both that there is hope, and that there are realistic hoops to pass, and steps to take.

It is a particularly good reminder that going through the formalities starting with family is very important. Though long and challenging the marriage permission process is a ritualized and regulated one that works better if one fulfils the steps roughly in order.

Thanks again to all! :)

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