Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
NONGOVERNMENTAL organizations are supposed to fill the gap left by state agencies and serve the unserved and underserved. These institutions normally are formed as a result of individual and group initiatives.
Awasser and the human rights commissions in Saudi Arabia are supposed to have been formed for this reason.
Unfortunately, they have shown no interest or concern for the many tragedies of the neglected Saudi families which I have written about in my last four articles. I have not received any comments from them nor have they responded to the criticism of callers and visitors to their websites.
“I was just thinking very hard about Awasser and their failure to reply not only to me, but to so many others who are in need of help,” a woman in desperate need of assistance wrote to me. She is a Western mother of two neglected Saudi children, living in Riyadh, and has been trying to connect with Awasser and other similar organizations for some time and is now furious with frustration.
“I have only had time to use my computer these last few days because I am on holiday from work. I have been really unwell for the last eight days and am only just recovering a little today. Being ill feeds my fear about how we will manage in the future. I usually have to work for more than 12 hours a day,” she wrote.
“I used to go back and read some previous articles promoting Awasser. I discovered that the organization was started in 2001. Now, if after 11 years they still do not have a functioning website in English, then there is something very, very wrong,” she added.
“With the millions they must have had in government support and individual donations, it seems very lacking in forethought and organizational skills not to make an English website accessible. This doesn’t fit their claim that they are scouring the entire world for half-Saudi children abandoned by Saudi fathers to offer them housing, education, medical care and social and sentimental support,” she concluded.
Now, here is good news for a change! As big and powerful organizations fail to respond and cooperate, including the GCC Secretariat General, Shoura Council, National Dialogue Center and concerned departments in the ministries of social affairs, foreign affairs and justice, here is a hero offering his help free of charge.
“I have been following your articles recently with much interest,” Faisal Abdullah Abdulrahman Abulhassan wrote. “Although my story is not tragic, I have met many other half-Saudis with sad stories and I have always dreamed of finding a way to help them bridge and connect to Saudi culture. My parents (American mother and Saudi father) were legally married and lived in the Kingdom, but separated when I was young and I was raised in the USA my whole life.”
Faisal and his sister are luckier than most children in similar situations; their parents and families are idealists.
“I was always in contact with my family in Saudi Arabia, and visited them many times as a child. My grandparents, father, aunts, uncles and cousins visit me and my sister in the States,” he wrote.
“I was blessed to be raised completely in America, while knowing my Saudi identity and Saudi family. Thanks to Allah I have been blessed with a mother who maintained our Arab and Muslim identity and did not remarry in order to raise us properly; and a father who also did not remarry and focused his life on working in Saudi Arabia to support his ex-wife and Saudi children; and a Saudi family who cared and loved us. I have spent my life working with many Saudi agencies (embassies and ministries) that deal with citizens affairs abroad, and, unfortunately, you are correct, they often offer information only in Arabic.”
Faisal is offering his experience to help families and children who need help in communicating with government agencies.
“I would love to be able to assist the women and children who were not as lucky as I was to re-connect with their Saudi families, or at least their Arab and Islamic roots and government services. I had some work experience in Saudi consulates before I went back to school (I am now studying for my Masters) and I would like to use this knowledge of Saudi systems to help these lost families re-connect.
“If you have any idea how I could connect with them to do this, please let me know. It was always a dream of mine to set up a society later in life to help these families, but your articles have given the issue much attention and have made me decide what better time than the present.”
Bless your Saudi-American heart, Faisal. I hope more individuals and groups will join us in our endeavor to find some organized solutions for our abandoned families and children. Send us your thoughts and stay tuned!
— Dr. Khaled Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at: Kbatarfi@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter: @Kbatarfi