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Woman loses custody of Saudi daughter over bikini photos

Bethany Vierra lost custody of her daughter [Facebook]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2019

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US woman living in Saudi Arabia lost custody of her four-year-old daughter after judge ruled she was “new to Islam” and might expose the daughter to foreign traditions.
An American woman living in Saudi Arabia lost custody of her four-year-old daughter on Sunday, after a judge ruled her as an unfit mother because she carried "foreign traditions".

Bethany Vierra lost custody of her daughter after her ex-husband Ghassan al-Haidari - described as abusive - showed the judge pictures of her in a bikini, wearing yoga pants and without her hair covered. 

The court heard that Vierra, who is from Washington state but moved to Saudi Arabia in 2011 to teach at a woman's university, was unfit to raise a girl as she also did not speak Arabic well and was an atheist.

The court gave custody of Zaina to Haidari's mother - who lives with her son, US media reported.

"Since the mother is new to Islam and a foreigner in this country and embraces customs and traditions in the way she was raised, we must avoid exposing Zaina to these traditions," the judge said in his ruling.

The ruling was made despite video evidence showing Haidari verbally abusing Vierra and taking drugs in front of the child.

The case highlights both the Kingdom's oppressive guardianship system and difficulties women face in the courts.

Under the system, women are considered second-class citizens. Women need male permission to leave the home, marry and to travel abroad.

Vierra's ex-husband had previously used his power as her legal male guardian to prevent her from taking her daughter to visit family in the US.

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