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As an editor of a women’s magazine you come across many stories, one of which I would like to share. I met this woman; let’s call her Mona. She is pretty, early thirties, good job, good family, cute kid, from the outside all seems pretty harmless.
When Mona met Ahmed she fell in love and married him despite the raised eyebrows of her family who were sort of never really fond of the groom. They married and had a beautiful baby. Now so far all sounds pretty normal.
What everybody didn’t know is that Mona and Ahmed never lived together longer than 3 months as a family in their home. When they got back from their honeymoon Mona was surprised to learn that he had sold their marital apartment in Mohandesin and that was the source of his wealth, buy and sell apartments. What everybody didn’t know is that Ahmed, although very well off, does not work or have a job. What everybody didn’t know was that he spends his days at the Gym and his evenings smoking Shisha. All of that could have been bearable for Mona except for the fact that Ahmed preferred to have a fancy life for himself and to stay with his mother instead of living with his pregnant wife, so Mona wanted to move in with him and his mother as a sign of good faith. The only problem as he explained was that “a household cannot accommodate two women” so Mona was sent home to live with her mother with empty promises that it is just a temporarily situation. Now funny enough she was alone during her pregnancy. When the baby was born, she was hoping for her life to turn normal, to have a husband in her home and a father to her child. Wrong she was. She was back at her mother’s while he was back at his. One year passed and no change. Money is sent sporadically if at all and the visits from Ahmed and his family are close to nil.
Being a married single mother quite weird it seemed to her and she decided to leave him. “If I live on my own, raise my kid alone and finance it alone, why stay married on paper?”. This is when Mona’s life took a drastic turn.
Living as a married single mother is one thing and actually asking Ahmed for a divorce turned out to be a whole different story. Of course the families began to speak aiming for an amicable separation. Promises were given, broken and stretched for another few months. In midst this ugly struggle filled with anger, frustration and patronization, he made a sick attempt to return Mona. He went to her home, telling them a story of having cancer and in tears begging Mona to come back to him. Mona in a dilemma of letting the father of her child die of cancer alone feels emotionally blackmailed and goes back to him. Although deep inside of her she felt he might be lying but convinced herself that behind this bizarre lie is the good intention of wanting his family back. For three weeks, after more than a year and half of marriage and a child, they live together in one apartment for the first time. Until one evening after a small fight, he decided to throw Mona, child and maid out of the marital apartment in Mohandesin.
Mona goes to her mother’s hurt, in shame and humiliated. She filed for divorce. “I will not divorce you!”. So she files for “Khul3” (woman’s right to leave husband and renounce all financial obligations). Now, being in 2010/2011 one would think that “Khul3” is an easy and fast thing, when in fact until today, almost 10 months later she is still his wife. In these 10 months Ahmed has filed 26 lawsuits against Mona. Lawsuits include “stealing his jeans and perfume” or “IOUs” or “vandalizing the apartment” or “accepting bribe to get someone a job in a known company”; the list goes on and on. Mona’s life turned from country club to being summoned to the police station once a week, attending hearings at the district attorney’s to being called to court. During these 10 months she had to move from her family’s home to an unknown location, for he had sent thugs in fake uniform to “arrest” her with a fake warrant. During that time Ahmed never asked about his child nor did he send any money or pay for tuition or the like.
Today, Mona is still his wife fighting for her “Khul3”. She is the only financial source for her child. She was not given back her apartment for she is the custodian of her child and entitled to it. She received 14 “not guilty” verdicts and is still fighting for the rest. She was offered 1500 LE by court as monthly alimony to cover the child’s expenses, for he is pretending to be poor, while shopping at Beymen. Ahmed fought for the right to see his child once a week, but never showed up. While Mona is fighting for her freedom, Ahmed has a new fiancé that he courts in public. In addition to high legal fees and worries of raising a child alone, Mona’s life is on hold until a family judge, always male and in favor of his species, finally stands up for her.
For editorial purposes and not to harm the running court cases many horrendous details were left out. The bottom line is that family laws in Egypt need a second and third look. They are rusty, often contradicting and never in favor of the child and the mother. Of course there are many cases where the opposite happens, but the norm is that the husband in combination with a dirty lawyer has so many loopholes at his disposal that allow him to make the woman spin around herself in various courts all over Egypt for months and years. The question should be how could an average Egyptian woman finance all that? She couldn’t. If Mona wouldn’t have sufficient funds for a good lawyer, rent an own apartment and daily expenses, she would have had no choice but to give in to all his demands.
In the end it once again proves that freedom, dignity and humanity are only available for those who can pay. As for all the rest who cannot pay, their story will appear in the papers when it is too late!
Do you know such a case? Do you know a way to help women in such a situation? Do you have a cousin, friend or sister who is in such a dilemma and cannot solve it? Mail us the story along with solid proof and we will publish it. Let’s raise awareness for all the women who cannot raise their voice! Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org