Western Women and Middle Eastern Countries

What Western Women really need to know. There is no material on this subject and government departments dealing with International Parental Child Abductions refuse to discuss or educate on this topic. CARI Child Abduction Recovery International is contacted by desperate mothers from most nations with horrible stories of their children being abducted and mostly abandoned with the fathers parents in a foreign country. At the end of this blog we have included a case we dealt with in 2017. Read the typical response from a Muslim male lawyer. That child is now home safe and sound with his her mother.

As all Middle Eastern countries are the same in the fact they mostly are ruled by Sharia Law we will concentrate this blog on Jordan after we recently recovered a child from there and are constantly contacted by Western Women with their children abducted to Jordan. All Middle Eastern countries have not and will not sign up to The Hague Convention. This blog also relates to all countries governed by Sharia Law.


What does its name mean?

The word Sharia means “the path,” or “a road that leads one to water.” It refers to a set of principles that govern the moral and religious lives of Muslims.
Shariah law, according to Muslims, includes “the principle of treating other people justly, of making sure that the financial system treats people fairly … and most importantly the basic principles of Islamic fate,” says Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman.
It encompasses things like marriage, divorce, inheritance and punishments for criminal offenses. In a nutshell Sharia Law encourages male dominance. Western women in Middle Eastern countries have little to zero rights especially when it comes to marriage and custody which is the subject of our blog. CARI Child Abduction Recovery International is the only recovery organisation who has a track record of returning abducted children from the Middle East. It’s about who you know in these countries not what court papers you have.

In Jordan the religious courts include Sharia courts, which apply Islamic law for the Muslim community, and non-Muslim tribunals for other religious communities, namely those of the Christian community living in the country. All religious communities in Jordan have primary and appellate courts and deal only with matters involving family law such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody of the children.

The Shari’a Courts and Application of Islamic law

Article 105 of the Constitution states that “The Sharia Courts shall in accordance with their own laws have exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the following matters: (i) Matters of personal status of Muslims; (ii) Cases concerning blood money (Diya) where the two parties are Muslims or where one of the parties is not a Muslim and the two parties consent to the jurisdiction of the Shari’a Courts; (iii) Matters pertaining to Islamic Waqfs.” (Waqf is an Arabic term used to point to the real estate property owned by the religious communities in Jordan).

Article 106 states that: “The Shari’a Courts shall in the exercise of their jurisdiction apply the provisions of the Shari’a law.”

Thus, the Shari’a courts are vested with exclusive jurisdiction in matters related to personal status of the Muslim community such as marriage, divorce, succession, guardianship, inheritance, as well as matters that are related to Muslim religious charitable endowments, and all other matters that are considered Islamic by nature.

The Shari’a courts comprise of courts of First Instance, and courts of appeal. Appeals from the latter is made to the Court of Cassation, which is the highest court of the land. Members of the trial and appeal courts are recruited from the judges who are experts in Islamic law. One judge, called “qadi”, sits in each Shari’a court and decides cases on the basis of Islamic law. CARI Child Abduction Recovery International strongly suggests to all foreign women to know your rights before you even go to a Middle Eastern country like Jordan.


Custody of Children in Jordan ( also a very ‘similar’ situation in other Middle Eastern countries)

Disputes involving marriage, divorce and custody of children for the Muslim community in Jordan is governed by the Personal Status Law # 36, 2010. The rules applied to the custody of Muslim children are stated in Section 3. Article 173 (1) states that the custody of children belongs to the mother until the child reaches the age of fifteen.  This means the rule governing Muslim children in Jordan is based on the age of the child. After the child reaches the age of fifteen, he or she is given a choice to stay with the mother until the age of maturity, which is 18.

Article 176 states that if the child is a Jordanian citizen, his mother cannot travel with him or her for permanent residency without permission of the wali (guardian).

A mother can lose her primary right to custody of the child if the Sharia court determines that she is incapable of safeguarding the child or of bringing the child up in accordance with the appropriate religious Islamic standards.

According to Article 172(b), the wife loses her right to custody when the child reaches the age of seven if the mother is not Muslim. In other words, the age fifteen stated in article 173(1) for custody assumes that the mother belongs to the Islamic faith. If, however, the wife is not Muslim, then her custody ends when the child reaches the age of 7. This clause is based on Islamic Shari’a; it does not take into account the best interest of the child.

Jordan Does Not Recognize Foreign Custody Orders

The general rule is that Islamic Sharia does not recognize a civil marriage, civil divorce or custody order issued by a foreign court. Under the Jordanian Personal Status Law, which is based on Islamic law for the Muslim community, the Shari’a courts will not recognize any foreign judgments of custody. A foreign custody order issued at the request of an foreign mother will not be enforceable in Jordan and CARI Child Abduction Recovery International knows that all to well with many of our cases we have and are dealing with in the Middle East.

Abduction of children is a major offense in Jordan. An foreign mother may face serious legal difficulties if she attempts to take her children out of Jordan without written permission of the father.

If a Jordanian father chooses to take the children to Jordan and leave them there, the foreign Embassy cannot force the father or the Jordanian government to return the child to the foreign country, nor is it possible in most cases to extradite a Jordanian father to the foreign country for parental child abduction even with an Interpol Red Notice (Wanted order). Foreign citizens planning a trip to Jordan with dual national children should bear this in mind.

Jordan Entered Islamic Reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Upon ratification of the CRC, Jordan entered reservation to the Convention stating: “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan expresses its reservation and does not consider itself bound by articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Convention, which grant the child the right to freedom of choice of religion and concern the question of adoption, since they are at variance with the precepts of the tolerant Islamic Shari’ah.” So what do articles 14, 20 and 21 cover?

Article 14 reads: (1) State Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. (2) States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child. (3) Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.”

According to article 14, children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practice their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parent should guide their children in these matters. The Convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children. Religious groups around the world have expressed support for the Convention, which indicates that it in no way prevents parents from bringing their children up within a religious tradition. At the same time, the Convention recognizes that as children mature and are able to form their own views, some may question certain religious practices or cultural traditions. The Convention supports children’s right to examine their beliefs, but it also states that their right to express their beliefs implies respect for the rights and freedoms of others.

Jordan entered reservation to article 20 of the Convention which states that children who cannot be looked after by their own family have a right to special care and must be looked after properly, by people who respect their ethnic group, religion, culture and language. This provision seems to be in violation of Islamic Sharia which regards children born of Muslim fathers are considered to be Muslims and have to be raised by Muslim families.

When Jordan entered Islamic reservations to the CRC and specified what provision the Kingdom is reserving to, the reservations do not indicate a refusal to be bound by the most central provisions of the Convention. That is, Jordan is not indicating a rejection of the overall goal of improving the well being of children. Jordan singled out adoption and freedom of religion as indicated above, both of which violate percepts of Islamic law as traditionally interpreted.

Below is a reply from an experienced Muslim solicitor to a mother who has a child stuck in Jordan for a number of years after the mother was lured on a ‘holiday’ to Jordan with her child. The mother has now been granted full custody within her home country and in Jordan. The father was ordered to hand of the child immediately. That did not happen. Take a look at this reply below. Western women reading this or know another friend who is in a relationship with a Middle Eastern man take note…… this situation is happening daily and you will have zero chances of getting your children home from any Middle Eastern country. There are horrific stories we know and have heard of Western Women being stuck in Middle Eastern countries and can not leave. Their Embassies refuse to help or get involved. This is why a good 60% of CARI Child Abduction Recovery International cases are in the Middle East.

Don’t let you or your children be another victim!


The problem is that Jordan is not part of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty provides an expeditious method of return of a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another. Therefore your case is outside the scope of international law regarding the custody issue.
You probably know that when you married your Jordanian husband, you subjected yourself and your children born of this marriage to the rules of Islamic sharia (law). Under these rules, Jordan will not recognize a custody court order from non-Muslim countries such as Finland. In other words, even if you get a court order of custody in Finland, the Jordanian law will not recognize that order, because custody issues are governed by the Islamic law of Jordan.. So what do you do?
If you converted to Islam, you might be able to have custody of your children provided that you stay in Jordan. If you are a Muslim woman and decide to stay in Jordan, you might be able to get custody order from the sharia court. Chick with the Jordanian Consulate in Finland and get some information on the best way to visit your children safely.
Beyond that, I really don’t see a solution other than you and your husband agree on the terms of custody, amicably.
Good luck.
CARI Child Abduction Recovery International wanted to highlight this topic as we believe educating foreign women on their rights would go a long way in stopping so many unnecessary child abductions. Please consult with an experienced lawyer who specializes in Sharia Law and Middle Eastern countries, DON’T use your local family law firm.
*A big thanks to Zafar Patel for sharing your valuable knowledge and experience.

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