Friday, June 28, 2013

Car Accidents are like Rain

As they (a couple of OPNO girls) sat waiting for their injuries to be looked over at the ER [Emergency Department] the other day, it was said, "Don't worry, car accidents are like rain. They happen to people like rain in this country---one or two to three times a year." A non-OPNO girl accompanying them through triage agreed. "I have had three accidents this year."

After being thankful for having had a car seat (there was a baby-on-board), since everything in the car had ended up on the other side of it or on the highway, the girls and the baby were pretty much abandoned to wait in the hospital department, until one of them actually went into the CT room to find no one there at all, despite being told it was busy with people already waiting.

Of course, the girls began to walk out after waiting for hours and only then did a nurse and doctor go to check on the person in the radiology department. Fifteen minutes later they were finished, despite being shocked that the MDs actually ignored their ACTUAL injuries. No one checked for internal damage from where they'd hit their bodies in the car, or complaints of whiplash. The hospital just kept asking about head injuries and vomiting which both girls were absolutely certain they weren't suffering from.

The infant child was never checked at all.

So alhamdulillah everyone is all good despite. The cars involved were not so lucky.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The use of the photo for the "Maid to suffer" article in Y Magazine, and we need some womens shelters

The image above is a photo used in a Y magazine article about abused Ethiopian housemaids in Oman, and human trafficking well worth a read http://www.y-oman.com/2013/05/maid-to-suffer/. Andy in Oman already re-posted the story and I commented on Y's webpage, for which I received some flack.

Ethiopians are particularly vulnerable, due to the fact that they lack help in Oman from their Embassies/Consulates should something go wrong with their employers. The article highlights the brutal rape and attempted murder of one poor young woman. The story is horrifying and the article good. Oman lacks women's shelters for the most even for Omani women and I have always been active about this in a personal way, but something has to be done more publically I think to raise awareness and provide a means of care for women in bad situations. Also, laws concerning punishment for those who commit such crimes needs to be harsh (or at the very least meted out).

That is my first thought about the story. My secondary thought though is the use of the photo for the article, to which I wrote into Y magazine the following:

"While I disapprove beyond measure your choice to run a photograph of a woman covering her face, further contributing to the stereotype that Muslim women and veiled women are suppressed and abused, this topic [maid abuse] touches me deeply. I have known and been friends with many housemaids in Oman, and when anyone one of them has not been given their legal rights, my legal course to help them has always enraged me." I went on to say what I think should be done or what the magazine could focus on next in terms of women's shelters ect....

To which I received a comment via Andy's post saying: "Glad to see that you've got your priorities straight. Sheesh, that raping young girls is bad but that what really bothers you is "stereotyping" women who cover their faces."

...which is:

 a. not what I said at all.
b. something that needs to be said in addition to actions taken against preventing rape and helping defenseless young women.

I was nearly raped because I chose (for my religious beliefs) to wear a face veil. Why? Because of the stereotypes that Muslim women are a. stupid, b. abused by men, c. sexual objects for men's control, and d. suppressed. People thought/think they had the right to tell me what to believe and wear and if I wasn't like other women then I chose to make myself sub-human to them. If someone becomes sub-human then it is easy for abuses against them to happen. Stereotypes enforce this and the magazine, either knowingly or accidently contributed to that stereotype by using a photograph of a veiled woman in an article about rape, abuse and suppression.

I cannot support that, despite supporting the article itself.

I find it further, more irritating, because I have never ever met a housemaid in Oman who wore the face veil. Headscarf maybe, but niqab or face veiling, never. The majority of Ethiopian housemaids in Oman are actually Christian, and wouldn't otherwise wear hijab (headscarf) normally outside of their agreement with the maid agency of employer. The article also contained two photographs, one unveiled and one veiled of the same woman. The covering of the face does not represent suppression, rape victims, or the experience of Ethiopian housemaids so I questioned the choice to run with that. I know there ARE Muslim Ethiopian niqabis out there, but definitely the minority and I have yet to meet one working IN Oman as a housemaid.

The fact that I question the use of the photograph does not mean I do not support full rights for employees in Oman, or think a woman getting raped is less of an issue than a photograph. But the fact that the photograph was used as a header for an article about rape, oppression and abuse of my fellow women, affects my life negatively, giving people the wrong image of the face veil, and helping rape victims or oppressed employees with nothing towards the reality of their situation.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

DAILY DIARY: Top Bloggers Dinner

There was a blogger's dinner hosted by the Intercon a couple of days back now that two of our contributors headed out to along with a lot of other great bloggers we follow.
We attempted to remain anonymous, which I suppose was hilarious, seeing two fully veiled women in black emerging from Trader Vics at day close. I sincerely hope that the other bloggers felt as comfortable as we eventually did, unable to see our faces and all. Since not every OPNO girl is a full-time niqab (that face veil thing never to be confused with a burqa) wearer, it was odd for us as well just a bit. Staring down at the menu and being, like I really really want soup and lobster right now ect... and icecream for dessert but not wanting to get that stuff on the fabric of our friend's slightly expensive veil fabric... Yeah.
Anyways, we were those really really really annoyingly late locals. We were always going to be late, due to the fact that we had to go baby shower shopping and pick people up from the airport... But we went beyond that due to a Fifa qualifier parade that mystified us from the first.

Driving on the freeway, I saw some dude in a Saudi thobe sitting on the roof of his car (no roof rack by the way) going 120 taking the exit, and it was like, did I just see a dude on the roof of his car????
Of course, around Bareeq Al Shatti, traffic came to a stand still as we saw cars parked blocking the way and men in dishdashas and Guy Fawkes masks belly-dancing in the street. We were like, what the hell, as some dude wearing an Omani flag and a wig started chest salsa-ing into our car windows. at that point our driver turned on the radio, to figure out what the heck was going on. On the other side of the street traffic also seemed to have gone "kalas" as atvs zoomed up the road going the opposite direction of the traffic flow and one car was totally unmanned as the driver climbed out the window onto the roof and people were pulling over to watch. Apparently, Oman beat Iraq? Sadly, Brazil remains to be eliminated.
Arriving at the dinner, everyone had already ordered and were eating their starters and main (which looked fab, especially that lamb). The caesar salad was delish. The Mai Thai cocktail (without alcohol) was as fabulous as I remember from being a teen in Oman)---I had two. Easy to drink with niqab because of the straw;). The little stir stick tiki man was awesome. The coconut icecream was perfect for those who are lactose intolerant and the taste for those who are not. The icecream was incredibly creamey and helped off-set the honey that was drizzled over it. The coconut shavings helped give texture to the creaminess so there was just a bit of a crunch.
We joked about getting some Omani guy to wear niqab and grated pink plastic sunglasses to unveil the fact that HE was actually Dhofari Gucci, aka Nadia, to forever protect his identity, and experiences from blogging. We talked about Oman of course, and experiences with freedom of speech and our blogs. Randomly, the thought came up that this would be a good way to round up people, LOL, sorry Intercon. We talked about our favorite restaurants, where to get real Japanese, about whether or not we should start a blog IN Japanese about Oman... lol, yeah.

Anyways we had a great time. I really enjoyed putting faces to the names of some bloggers. Sorry we just couldn't do exactly the same! To the other bloggers who were invited but didn't feel comfortable coming, I can lend you niqabs at the door next time if you want;) :D.

Thank you to those who invited us, made us feel welcome, and to the Intercon. for the food and private dining room.
AFTERNOTE: The fortune cookies seemed to suit everyone, as fortune cookies are wont to. Mine said "your house will be full of love" and since my house is now populated with a lot of house maids people didn't want, lol, and babies, and guests, I think that holds true. Another OPNO girl, fresh back from studies in lands far and away, and covering the protests in Egypt and rather nonchalant about being tear-gassed, her cookie read: "You will travel to the far-east soon" . Next time, I will try the steak if we are lucky enough to get the opportunity to be invited again.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Having Loved and Lost in Oman-Divorce

Divorce is a disliked but not-sinful thing for Muslims. Divorce happens. Yes, even in Oman. Sultan Qaboos University is currently doing research into the effects of the growing divorce rate in Omani society. That is not what I am going to write about though. I am going to write a rough guide for divorce [no, I am not planning on getting a divorce, I just thought this is useful information for some out there]. The first thing though to understand, is Islamic marriage rights and customs, and then, which of these one will be bound to if married to an Omani.

The whole reason behind the Islamic marriage (the actual Islamic marriage, called 'nikah' or 'melka') is to protect the rights of the bride from this unfortunate event {divorce}, or otherwise, the early demise of her beloved. The Islamic marriage consists of the signing of a marriage contract where the rights and responsibilities of both husband and wife may be comitted, and also, a portion of money {or as otherwise stated as per the bride's wishes} given to the bride, meant to be maintained for her do with as she likes. Unfortianetly in Oman, this is usually wasted in wedding expenses and can even be eaten up by greedy father-in-laws. I have also known women whose intended did not pay the promised maher. Most women in Oman who face hardships due to divorce in Oman did not ensure their legal rights upon the time of marriage, or did not care to live within the laws of the country.

Oman's family law is derived from Islamic Shariah law, but it is not entirely true to that, so within this post I will advise so anyone entering into marriage will understand their due rights.

RIGHT TO CHOOSE ONE'S OWN SPOUSE CAN BE GROUNDS FOR ANNULMENT: In Islam, no woman can be married against her will. If she was threatened by any memeber of her family {either to be cast out, isolated, beaten, abused, ect.} in order to marry a man she did not want, she has it within her legal rights to go to any courthouse in Oman, and sue for an annulment. This is part Shariah law, and Oman does enforce it. Unfortunately, most women facing this situation have been purposefully kept ignorant of such a right within Islam, or uneducated and unable to financially provide for themselves or their children, and are afraid of their family hurting them if they should be so brave as to seek such an annullment. Ladies, if facing this situation, I do know places you can go where other women who have been through the same can help you to start over. Oman's government does, fortunately, support Islamic law on this. Be brave ladies. There is a way out so don't just complain and do nothing about it.

Men can also face such a situation. In our family for instance,  one guy was married pretty much without his consultation when he was 11 years old to a bride of 8 years, and another at the age of 10 to a bride of 6 . It happens to guys too, although is more common for women in very tribal, rural areas.

KNOW WHAT CONSTITUTES A MARRIAGE: I cannot begin to stress this enough. Islamic marriage consists of the nikha/melka contract (verbal or written) as witnessed by two witnesses other than the bride and groom and the one preforming or overseeing the ceremony. Also, the bride requires a wali, either a muslim male from her family, or from the State, to make sure she is getting her maximum rights out of the premise of the marriage, and that she recieves her maher/dowry. She should also know her rights so that she gets a wali that cares about what she needs/wants, or so that she doesn't expect something out of a marriage contract that can't be assured under Oman's laws, or Islam.

DOWRY/MAHER: 
 The entire marriage portion/dowry/maher has to go to the bride. In Islamic law anyone who touches this but the bride or takes it from her or coerces her out of it against her free will has comitted a sin punishable by God/Allah himself in Hell. Oman's law also protects the bride's portion, and she may sue a man who does not pay it as he comitted in her written contract [called the aqed I believe in Oman?]. Also, if any male family member who takes from her portion can be sued. If a bride is not given her maher, her marriage under Islamic law is null and void, and should not be continued until the marriage portion is delivered as promised.

***It must be noted that if a marriage portion is not delivered as promised that a bride can only legally sue for the maher ammount cap that the Omani government has put on dowries, which is around 3000-4000 OMR I believe.**** [And honestly, guys, if you agree to any ammount higher than this, you're losers. Women who love you will marry you for 4000 and their families suck if they won't let a girl this. I say this about Oman, not other GCC countries where the legal system is less kind to women, like say, Saudi Arabia.]. Also, not receiving the maher is grounds for annulment of the marriage.

WITNESSES: The event must be witnessed by two witnesses OTHER than the Wali of the bride and officiator of the contract +bride+groom.

Normally, the witnesses are from the bride's family, or from the husband's. Be wary in the witness choice dear brides, especially if your marriage contract is purely verbal in form at the time of marriage, and/or if there is no actual marriage contract for you to read over and sign {be wary also if you cannot read Arabic as in Oman, all legal documents must be inArabic to be valid}.

I have known cases where witnesses, being husband/douche's friend during divorce, either lied or just refused to testify the truth of a woman's rights. It is a woman's rights to be able to trust the witnesses. Same goes for a husband.

THE WALI: A bride, if previously unmarried/and/or a virgin MUST have aguardian {either from her own family or from the State} to make sure that all of her legal rights are included on the marriage document, and this person should be seprate from the two required witnesses but not necessarily so under the law. Divorced or widowed women in some Islamic opinions, do not require a guardian, but may simply have the knowledgeable one officating the marriage and contract act as their wali. Under Omani law though, a woman must have a wali in order to recieve legal recognition of her marriage.

***If you are a woman and have no male relatives or your family refuses to help you get married, a wali can be obtained from any local courthouse or by hiring a lawyer. I don't understand why women are so scared of their families when it is their own lives they are dealing with. Trust me, if it ever comes down to divorce, you want a wali you can't count on.***

Usually when most marriages go wrong, it is because the woman knew nothing about her wali. ***The wali should NOT be a friend or family member of the man whom one is marrying, EVER.*** He should also be able to communicate to the bride, her rights, and have an interest to ensure them for her. Think of the wali as extra protection, like a lawyer on your side presiding over a prenuptial agreement. Also, if a wali is obtained through a courthouse or the government, make sure you have a copy of his ID card, that he speaks your language, and is willing to make the marriage contract to contain everything you deserve/want. You want to make sure that you can get into contact with him again if you ever need to sue or divorce. And you want him to be on your side.

The wali's main concern should be making sure the marriage is Islamically and legally valid, by ensuring the bride recieves her maher/dowry, and that the character of the man marrying the woman is good, and that she is not being coerced into marriage, knows her rights and responsibilities as a wife, and drafting the nikah/aqed agreement. This agreement can be verbal but urge strongly against this. I urge bride's, and I can't urge enough, to draft the agreement beforehand, make sure it is accurate to their wishes in Arabic, and that this is the only contract the wali should should. Also, that it should contain the bride and groom's signatures.

***I do wish Oman would make is a legal requirement that both the bride and groom's signatures be taken on the contract as well as the wali and the witnesses as a precaution against the bride being denied any of her rights and to protect her against coercion***

THE AQED/NIKAH AGREEMENT/MARRIAGE CONTRACT: In Islam, the last major requirement of the marriage is the drafting and agreement to of the marriage contract. This agreement may be verbal and still valid Islamically, but under Omani law, I urge that it be taken on paper. Only a paper aqed is viable in the courtroom but if verbal the witnesses and officiator can apply to produce an aqed for the courts.

The contract must be signed by the two witnesses and usally [legally in Oman] the wali. Often the agreement of the bride and groom to the contract is verbal. I urge again, get signatures. I myself didn't, but I think that is because I marired originally without permission from the government kind of secretively. Later, I was required to "sue" my husband in an Omani court, in order to get a aqed nikah paper. This required a whole whack of paperwork. Just get a written contract (in Arabic) correctly spelling out rights and responsibilities, maher ammount recieved, marriage accepting and not coerced on both parties, required signatures, and bam, life get's A LOT easier.

When you have a contract, make sure both you and your husband have a copy. Don't let one keep it. I know many cases of divorce where the husband kept the contract and refused to give it to the court so that he woudn't have to do as he was legally bound.

Girls, be smart.

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHEN DOING THE AQED: In Islam a woman has the right to a lot. She has the right to work, she has the right to live where she wants, she has the right to say upfront if her husband married again she will get a divorce and during divorce her rights will be a payment of a certain ammount, and custody of future children should be decided before marriage is even entered into.

Many find this hinders romance. My husband, for example, thought it meant I didn't trust him, but I insisted, these are my rights and this is what I want. I made a contract, first in English, and during marriage negotiation with my now Omani-husband, we worked out the kinks (even put in some rights for him), and then I had it professionally translated into Arabic and made into a document the courts in Oman would accept. For instance, custody of minors during divorce under many circumstances was spelt out in our aqed. Any particular marriage rights were also put in, such as where we would live, and anything either of us was agreeing to outside of norms. Custody should be numero uno when doing your aqed, as well as any financial provision required to be paid after divorce. As far as I know, in Oman, the financial provision required of a father to the mother raising his children barely covers diapers and milk and clothes, let alone anything for the mother if she doesn't work already and have someone to watch children while she works.

WHAT YOU CANNOT EXPECT THE AQED TO PROVIDE FOR YOU: Number one, don't expect the aqed to include anything against Islam. The right to marry up to four wives is a husband's right in Islam, just as it is a wife's to divorce him if he does. You can't put into your contract he wont remarry. In court, it won't benefit you anything.

In Oman, if you are a non-Omani, you can't expect that the law will allow your children to go with you outside of Oman if you divorce an Omani husband. It won't hold up in court, and frankly, I do agree with this. Know this before marriage. If you want your kids in the case of Oman, expect to have to stay and work in Oman. I mean, in Oman, it is really hard for most of us to get permission to marry an Omani man to start with because the Interior Ministry doesn't like dealing with dirty custody battles and all that, and kids being split with passports, yada yada. If you apply for permission to marry an Omani man from the start be ok with this or don't complain later.

In Oman if you divorce as a woman you will probably have to provide for yourself. Unless you put into your aqed something upon divorce you won't get anything towards alimony. We don't have the splitting of property in Islam upon divorce. what his is stays his and what's yours is yours. That's why my husband puts the house in my kids' names instead of his. To show me that he cares about that.

In Islam also, when a woman remarries, after her children are two years of age, the custody generally goes to the father to prevent any financial burden upon the mother. This is not always the case in Islam though, as it also says that a girl would be able to stay with her mother until puberty and a boy until he is old enough to decide which parent, provided the mother and her new husband accept this then as their responsibility. In Oman though generally the age of the child is not considered and the courts will lean to the Omani parent unless the aqed contract is exact about the Islamic rights of the mother to retain the children until puberty or their own decision.

CHANGES MADE TO THE AQED AFTER THE FACT: I honestly don't know if it is ok to amend your aqed contract after the fact as people have asked me that question through the blog. I suggest asking that at an Omani court and through the religious Ministry of authority to subscribe to.

DIVORCE WITHOUT YOUR RIGHTS: I know many sad cases of women divorced from GCC locals who either didn't know or act to ensure their rights. Many I feel were abused, others I feel less sorry for and think were stupid and get annoyed when they start spouting off, "islam is bad" or "Oman's courts are bad" without them caring about how the system works or trying to help themselves from the outset. For example, the court in Oman says you can have your kid provided you don't move out of Oman. No they will not pay for you to live or make your husband to (Islam does not require him to if you didn't ask for that WHEN you married) so you will have to set yourself up to work though. Don't like it? I don't know, I'd do that to stay with my kids sooooooo....

Divorce without an aqed insuring your rights sucks in Oman. Less so than in say, Saudi Arabia, where making a case for yourself, or the court even issuing a divorce for the woman at her own bequest is a horrible and sometimes impossible process.

In Oman you CAN obtain a divorce just by asking for one. You do have to show though, that there is a reason if you husband refuses to agree to the divorce. Such as, he married again, didn't provide financially, was abusive. Usually in Oman, thankfully, one doesn't have to substantiate these claims, declaring them is enough. In Islam never being able to be happy with the person (irreconcilable differences) exists and is a valid claim for divorce although some idiot dudes in the courts don't like to accept this one.

Of course, even you have an aqed that says you should receive alimony, in Oman, it isn't like a man's salary is docked by government if he doesn't give what he is supposed to for his wife and his kids. You can sue a deadbeat dude but that's about it. He might wind up in jail once in a while, but no one will actually take the money from him for you. Same goes for banks though, when people in Oman default on their loans, so don't take it personally as government-versus-women.

My friends who have been divorced usually say they prefer UAE's laws to say, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, when it comes to making provisions for divorcee female formerly married to locals.

I hope this post (depressing as it might be in places) shows what one should do and know about divorce in Oman from the outset of marriage. There's a lot of misconceptions out there, and I hope this clarifies the issues that lack in Oman's legal system  for divorce cases where troubles come from.