Foreign women who marry and move to a Muslim country can be trapped by culture and laws in which they have few rights. One American woman has a harrowing tale.
(Photo: Adam L. Linn)
Sara Rogers spent four years trapped in Palestine until she escaped with her children in 2005
The State Department has said it has "very limited capability" in Gaza regarding kidnapped citizens
LONDON — Gunfire cracked all around Sara Rogers as she climbed to the roof of her high-rise home in Gaza. The year was 2005, and Israeli soldiers were fighting Palestinian gunmen to stop rocket attacks and destroy smuggling tunnels.
Rogers closed her eyes. "Just let one hit me in the head," she begged. "And make it quick."
It was not the months of violence of the Second Intifada that made the Italian-American college graduate ache for death. It was her virtual enslavement by one of the most feared families in the Middle East.
Days later, Rogers was in a taxi with her five children, praying her husband wouldn't catch her and their five children before she reached the Israeli border.
"It was the most relieved I have ever felt," she recalled of her escape to Israel. "Four years of hell was finally over."
Rogers is not the first Western woman to marry an Arab man and find out how few rights she had once removed to a Middle East country that abides by sharia, or Islamic law. But some are working to make her among the last.
Micah Thorner, director of post-convention support programs at the Hague, said such cases will be the subject of a gathering in Tunisia this month "to engage states that are based on sharia legal systems in dialogue with states that are party to the convention."
Thorner said the aim is to get sharia nations to agree on some principles for the resolution of parental disputes involving children. But many nations in the Middle East have not signed on to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international agreement protecting against detainment of children.
"As the convention gains wider acceptance throughout the world, these types of situations are probably less likely to occur," Thorner said.
The ordeal of an American woman who was held captive with her child by her husband in Iran was chronicled in the 1991 book and film "Not Without My Daughter." And a French woman who escaped her Saudi prince husband has yet to be rejoined with her daughter despite a 2012 French court ruling ordering the husband to turn over the child.
The U.S. State Department does not keep records on its citizens who are kidnapped on foreign soil. Though it does try to put pressure on governments for an American's release, State has gone on record in the past that it has "very limited capability" in Gaza.
When such kidnappings do occur, it often appears as a surprise to women as it was to Rogers, a bright multicultural studies student from upstate New York.
Rogers was living with her mother in Las Cruces, a city on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, when she became enchanted by a soft-spoken Arab man working at the Middle Eastern cafe where she'd often study.
"I was the feminist, the rebel, everything you could imagine," she said. Hatem Abu Taha proposed to her three days after they met. They were married soon after.
"The morning after we wed, my husband got up to meet his friends," she recalled. "I was like, 'What? We're newlyweds.'"
"He just told me he was doing guy things and I could do woman things," she said in an interview at her home outside Boston.
Rogers worked as a nurse assistant but hoped for better. She completed a master's degree and was preparing to write a book. Her husband rarely worked. He spoke often of his native land.
The couple had three children and were expecting a fourth when Taha said it was time they traveled to the Middle East to visit his Palestinian relatives. It was 2001.
Taha's family lived in Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt from which Palestinian militants launched Qassam rockets into Israel.
Rogers was surprised to see that Taha's family appeared to be well off. They owned, he told her, Gaza's only cigarette patent. She was also not ready for what happened to her husband.
Taha was ultra-patriotic, she said, and passive to the will of his family who were hostile to the American in their home. After two weeks, Rogers said her kids were "breaking down." Her eldest son was suffering anxiety attacks. Her 2-year-old daughter had contracted dysentery.
When they arrived two weeks before, carpenters were building a third-floor addition to the family home. Taha told Rogers it was for his brother and his wife. But when the work was done, Taha told her the unit was where she would live.
Rogers was distressed and said she wanted the family to return home to the United States.
"He just laughed: 'You have no embassy here. You have no family. No one.' I was in shock," she said.
Her mother-in-law was the cruelest, she said, patrolling the downstairs so Rogers didn't escape. The children were called "Yehudi"(Jews) and bullied constantly at school. Her husband told her the children were his and that she was nothing but "a vessel."
"I did not exist as a person," she said.
There was worse to come. Rogers said Taha struck her and broke her jaw for not cleaning the refrigerator properly. And she was suspicious that her in-laws weren't just involved in cigarette trading.
They would have lengthy conversations with members of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group whose urban warfare tactics Rogers witnessed firsthand.
"The Palestinians would get inside a local school and start shooting from the windows," she said. "And the Israelis would just fire back. Then you'd see people holding up dead Palestinian kids."
When Rogers pleaded to move away from the perilous border with Israel, her father-in-law refused, claiming it would be an honor for them to be "martyred." It was soon clear the family was active in terror networks. Israeli aerial attacks were common.
"We could hear the helicopter coming a mile away: tick, tick, tick, tick," Rogers said. "Then it would drop the bomb."
Rogers' eldest son was injured by an Israeli tank shell. Her newborn son chewed holes in his feet because of the stress. One night, Taha and his nephew Yahya didn't return from a trip.
"On the BBC was a report that two Palestinians from Islamic Jihad had claimed an attack and a young man and his wife were dead," said Rogers. "My sister-in-law came up the stairs crying happily, saying that Yahya was now a martyr and in heaven. I had to get out."
On a trip to Gaza City to meet a family friend, Rogers slipped away while the men were at afternoon prayers. In her burka, she had heard that illegal taxis brought people from Gaza to Israel and pleaded with a local store owner to call her one.
"I asked the cab driver how long it took to Erez and he said half an hour. I said, 'If you can make it in 15 minutes, you can have every bit of gold I have.' He got me to the border."
Rogers said that speaking about her life in Palestine helps ease the pain. But it will be a long time until she recovers. "I try to take the positives from everything," she said. "I meet good people and everything makes me grateful."
"My kids are smart, funny, you'd never have guessed what they went through," she added. "I tell them that it was a bad thing but that it was given to them for a reason. They can make their lives count."
Caracas (AFP) - A Toronto-bound flight was stopped shortly before departure from Caracas when four Iranians and an Afghan were found aboard with fake tickets and no visas, Venezuelan officials said Saturday.
The captain of Air Canada Flight 075 discovered there were five extra passengers aboard his flight as it was scheduled to depart late Friday, said Luis Graterol, the head of the Simon Bolivar Maiquetia International Airport.
All those on board were forced to disembark and military officials identified the suspicious passengers, Graterol told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency.
The Iranians and the Afghan "did not have a visa to enter Canada, nor legitimate tickets," Graterol said.
He added that the flight had been delayed for five hours due to the incident.
The office of Venezuela's prosecutor general said that charges will be pressed against four people in the case: a member of Venezuela’s immigration office, an Air Canada employee, and two workers with an airport security company.
The suspects will face charges "linked to the illegal trafficking of five foreigners" at the Simon Bolivar airport, the office said in a statement.
No details were given on whether the five illegal passengers would face charges.
The security lapse comes after 1.3 tonnes of cocaine were found aboard an Air France jet that departed from the same airport in September and landed in Paris.
At least 28 people have been detained in that case, including eight members of Venezuela's National Guard, various airport officials, and an Air France employee.
Somalian-born Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed went to pray at mosque
But he hasn't been seen since leaving West London centre on Friday
His disappearance is a major blow to police and the security services
Theresa May faced criticism in the Commons today after a suspected Islamist terrorist supposedly under close monitoring went on the run wearing a burka.
Somalian-born Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed is believed to have evaded police observation by disguising himself as a woman in Islamic dress.
The 27-year-old went to pray at a mosque in West London on Friday and has not been seen since, Scotland Yard announced last night.
On the run: Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed is being hunted by counter-terrorism officers
Home Secretary Theresa May face criticism in the Commons today over the ability of the police and security services to track suspects through Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) notices.
It comes as the Serious Fraud Office launched a criminal probe into electronic tagging contracts handed to G4S and Serco.
Police released CCTV pictures of the Mohamed, apparently wearing the traditional garb.
Scotland Yard refused to comment on the offences he is suspected of.
However they said he was not ‘a direct threat to the public.’
His escape prompted renewed political debate about the role of the appropriateness of Islamic dress in British life.
It follows a court case earlier this year in which a woman was required to show her face to jurors and the judge while giving evidence.
Mohamed is one of a small number of terror suspects whose movements are restricted by a court order because of the threat they pose to the public.
Islamic clothing: Mohamed is seen leaving the An-Noor Masjid and Community Centre in Acton, west London
It follows the disappearance on Boxing Day of Ibrahim Magag who failed to return home on time to comply with his curfew. He has still not been found.
Mohamed's disappeared in a black cab in December after ripping off his electronic tag.
His disappearance is a major blow to police and the security services.
The Metropolitan Police said Mohamed attended the An-Noor Masjid Mosque in Acton, West London, at 10am on Friday.
He was seen inside the mosque at 3.15pm. A spokesman said he changed into Islamic clothing and ‘has not been seen since’.
A spokesman said: ‘The Counter Terrorism Command immediately launched inquiries to trace Mr Mohamed and these continue.
‘Ports and borders were notified with his photograph and details circulated nationally. Public safety remains our priority.’ He said anyone who sees him should call 999.
In the Commons Mrs May insisted Mohamed does not pose a direct threat to the British public even though the 27-year-old is understood to have received training and fought overseas for al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based cell of the militant Islamist group al Qaida.
To laughs and shouts from the Labour benches, Mrs May said: 'The police and security service have confirmed that they do not believe that this man poses a direct threat to the public in the UK.
'The reason he was put on a TPIM in the first place was to prevent his travel to support terrorism overseas.'
But Labour's Yvette Cooper said the disappearance of Magag and Mohamed was proof that the decision to replace control orders with TPMIs was a mistake.
Ms Cooper said: 'Since the Home Secretary got rid of relocation orders, got rid of control orders and brought in the weaker Tpims, two terror suspects have vanished.
Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, a Memphil Imam based in Tennessee, preaches openly about what Islam truly is. He makes no bones about thinking that anyone other than a Muslim doesn't deserve anything and are less than Muslims.
In fact, part of Yasir Qadhi's preaching includes rhetoric that says non-Muslims lives are forfeit and their property is legal for Muslims to take in jihad, (and this would include women as sex slaves) Recently Yasir Qadhi said that "Jews and Christians filthy, their lives and property can be taken in jihad by the Muslims."
Yasir Qadhi is not only a Memphil Imam, but is is also the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute. He is a hafiz (has memorized the Qur'an) and he has an M.A. in the Islamic Creed and a B.A. in Islamic Sciences from Islamic University of Medina, as well as a master's and a doctorate in Islamic Studies from Yale.
yasir qadhiDuring a lecture on Shirk, or polytheism, Yasir Qadhi said that Jews and Christians are mushrikoon, or polytheists, because they have made partners with Allah. From Yasir Qadhi's perspective, only Muslims are monotheists.
He also claims that it is the responsibility of every single human being to bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, and him alone.
Now pay attention here. Yasir Qadhi now will tell you what the result and command that stems from this twisted principle.
"And it is because of this same principle of monotheism that the prophet has been commanded to do jihad."
OK, now we're getting somewhere. Did all of you alleged "moderate" Muslims out there get that? Of course, you did. You know this. You know jihad is not just some internal struggle. It isn't about losing weight or getting in shape or some personal goal to be obtained. It is a holy war to advance the caliphate, the Islamic State.
While jihad is not the goal, Qadhi says, it is the means. "It is a means to establish monotheism on the land," Qadhi says.