Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jessica Socling's Story

Reprinted from the Saudi Gazette ...

"My ex-husband abducted the children and took them to Saudi Arabia"

My three children, all under the age of eight, were abducted by my Saudi ex-husband on Nov. 24, 2013 and were taken to Saudi Arabia. When I’m asked in America why I married a man from Saudi Arabia, my response is always the same: “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” But my advice to anyone wishing to marry someone from a different country, a different culture, is to really think about how these differences will impact your marriage.

I always tried to look at the positives. Our children had a unique and beautiful opportunity to get the best of both worlds, expand their horizons and be exposed to the rich cultures of their parents’ heritage.

But I never thought about what would happen if our marriage didn’t work out. When you are in love, it’s hard to think: “What will happen to the children if we get divorced?” No one wants to think of divorce.

I became a Muslim in the summer of 2001. I then met and fell in love with a young Saudi student, and we married early in 2002. I thought, as many young women who are in love thought, that we would be able to handle any conflicts together. We discussed the differences in our backgrounds, but I dismissed any idea that I wouldn’t be able to live with him anywhere, as long as we were together.

I thought I was prepared when I moved to Jeddah in the summer of 2003. I was Muslim, it was a Muslim country. I was committed to my husband and to Islam. But the culture shock crept up on me, as I’m sure it has crept up on many. I became increasingly isolated and lonely.  I felt that I was letting down my husband with my unhappiness, and he acted like he agreed.

Our lives progressed and in the summer of 2012, my husband resigned from his job to accept a scholarship for his master’s degree in the US. I was content. I settled into homeschooling our older two sons. Our youngest son, developmentally delayed due to a congenital defect, was getting all the therapy he needed. I was close to my family. My husband was doing well in school. Our children were shining beacons of beautiful, open, friendly Muslims, better dawah (call to Islam) than I could ever give on my own.

But then, late in October of 2012, my world shattered. My husband came to me with an announcement. He had decided to take a second wife. I was shocked and then outraged when he told me the wedding would take place in five days, to a young woman who had become a Muslim only weeks earlier. I begged, pleaded with my husband not to rush into this marriage. We had been married for nearly 10 years and I did not believe I could live in a polygamous marriage.

We ended up separating. Through the pain of the destruction of my marriage, I wanted only what was best for our children. He assured me that he would always take care of them, that he would stay in America with his new American wife.

But things became increasingly strained between us. I felt that he became more controlling, irrational, and erratic as time went by. It was after I didn’t have enough money to buy groceries for our children and I became fearful of his actions towards me that I sought relief through the courts for child support and an official custody agreement.

We shared custody in the US, and negotiated the terms of an Islamic parenting plan, a contract, that scheduled travel to Saudi Arabia during the school holidays. This custody agreement was nearly done by the fall of 2013. He made every indication that he agreed with the arrangements. And then the worst night of my life happened. The children were supposed be dropped off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, after a regular visit to their father and new stepmother. But he never showed up. I texted, called, desperate to find the boys, with no response. I called hospitals, police, as I was worried about an accident. It was hours later that I found out that my children had left on a Saudi Airlines flight at 5:55 p.m. I literally fell to the floor in fear and grief. My children, who had never spent more than a night away from me, were gone. I had loved them and cared for them before they were even born. I had only ever wanted to do what was right for them. And they were stolen from me.

No one wants to think about divorce, about what will happen if their partner doesn’t honor the mother of his children and doesn’t respect the right of young children to remain with their mother. My children have been kept from me for six months. I have been trying, from the day they were taken, to either get them back, or get to them in Saudi Arabia. My ex-husband has refused mediation attempts. I have been trying to find help in any way possible.

The US government has filed kidnapping charges against my ex-husband and his new wife, who was recently arrested and charged with assisting in the kidnapping while traveling back to the US. Even more recently, I had a meeting with the Saudi Consulate in the US and I’m hoping for the best.

But meanwhile, the children live without their mother. They do not wake up to me making them breakfast. We do not take walks through the yard and learn about the things that live there. We do not sit together and read stories of the Prophets and Islamic poetry. We do not snuggle up at night before bed, reading and talking about our days. My house, once full of love and laughter, is quiet and empty.

Jessica Socling, USA

Note from Susie: 
Unfortunately Jessica's story is not as uncommon as we would like to believe.  I get emails from women all over the world asking for advice because they are in love with Saudi men, and their families are unaccepting or worried about the relationship with a Saudi.  It is important to understand the possibilities of what could happen before you get involved too deeply with a Saudi man. What makes marriage to a Saudi man even more risky is the lack of governmental support if things go sour and the man absconds with the children to his homeland.  The issue of taking a 2nd wife always looms overhead and most often results in the breakup of the first marriage, or at the very least, a very profound adverse effect on it.  Any woman considering marriage to a Saudi man should think long and hard about it first.  Don't be a fool and think that this couldn't happen to you.  I have seen it happen too many times here in Saudi Arabia - and there is absolutely no guarantee that you are immune.


  1. What an incredibly sad story.

    I just started reading "Finding Nouf" which takes place in Saudi Arabia. Have you read it?

  2. It's true, this isn't as unusual as we would like to think. I hope all the young women in America are on their guard, with so many Saudi men studying at university. They may seem so acclimated in the US when you meet them, but the truth of the matter is that will all disappear the moment they go home to their country. The culture and society are both set up so that they can completely take advantage of their foreign wives.

  3. Why am I not surprised. Hopefully this woman will see her sons again, but it would not surprise me if she didn't. I can't imagine how the three boys feel and what they have been told. Another shining example of the SA culture.

  4. This is so tragic and terrible! I hope you're doing well, Susie.

  5. A frightening turn of events for these three boys. Wish Jessica well.

  6. It is just so sad. These parents think only themselves, it's of course obvious but it's been also studied that these kids who are so dramatically separated from the other parent are not doing well later in life (nor in present) and suffer their whole life. Why would anyone want this for their children?

  7. As bad as I feel for this situation, I also can't help saying it was both not unusual and preventable. In my opinion, no one should consider such a marriage unless they are prepared for this to happen. I personally can't fathom how any woman can become a Muslim knowing the debasing practice of additional wives and the primacy of the father over the mother in custody of children. Even if that is somehow OK with the person, it must be understood in terms of what that will actually mean in your life. No matter how the man may provide assurances while in the initial phases of the relationship, he will have law, religion, culture and customer behind him should he decide to change his mind.

    I don't say this to be mean or unfeeling. The reality is much meaner than any words. From what I know Saudi men easily revert to their cultural norms. This can be family pressure or just the ability to act on normal marital boredom or discord. Bumps happen in any marriage. But in this unequal yoking, the man can add women to the relationship and safely abscond with the children to Saudi Arabia without fear of consequence unless he returns to the US. He has options that non-Muslim/Saudi men don't legally have and that creates an incredibly uneven playing field.

    People are free to enter whatever relationships they wish. But they need to be prepared for the consequences which can easily ensue from a relationship with a Saudi.I once dissuaded a close friend from pursuing such a relationship. I made her become educated about the many real and tragic stories and situations which have happened to other western women and noted that they all felt their Saudi's were "different" too.Ultimately she left the relationship.Not just due to what I said but also from re-evaluating him and her possible future in light of what I said.

    You should never underestimate the differences in our cultures. The US protects the rights of all. In the US, the justice system is fair to all, citizen or non-citizen, Christian, Jew or atheist. That is NOT the case elsewhere. This happened even though they lived in the US. If it happened in Saudi Arabia I don't believe she would have had any legal recourse to her children and certainly not to prevent a second marriage.

    Saudi men can be very attractive and appealing. Date them, befriend them, whatever. Just don't marry them and definitely don't have children with them until the consequences other women have faced are OK with you. The only manner in which I would say a marriage and children is reasonable is if there is some way in Saudi/Sharia law in which an airtight agreement can be made prior to marriage which would prohibit these actions and which would be enforceable in Saudi courts. I have no idea if that is possible though and I certainly wouldn't take a Saudi lovers word that it is.

    I also want to say that none of this is meant to insult Susie in any way. I think she has been lucky from what I see. But I see she clearly recognizes the issues others may face. Everyone is not lucky as can be easily seen from the many many stories readily available. I really appreciate her efforts to portray the reality women will face. I think sometimes it is almost impossible for a western woman to really understand what that religious, legal and cultural difference can mean in terms of a woman's life and the lives of any future children.

  8. PegO: The US judicial system does not protect the rights of all neither is it always just. People find themselves in all sorts of heart wrenching situations at the hands of the court system in the US. Parental alienation happens right here in the US. I find your comment really tacky considering what this woman in enduring.

  9. That is such a sad story.

  10. A gripping story, Susie. I think here in the US we are so into showing that no matter how differnt we are, we are the same (the politically correct public schools cliche at the end of every multicultural event) that we forget there are very real and substantial differences not only in the way we live but how we think.

  11. Here in Brazil things like that happen a lot, kids being kidnapped by husband from differents countries

  12. They were born in ksa. they are not American.

  13. They are American because they were born to an American parent.

  14. Ms, Scoling did regain custody in 2018, however, there are few details about how the children were returned.

    I was googling for something else, and stumbled upon the link below, and the link to Susie. I am always amazed at the unrelated things I find while searching.