South African women have been urged to be on high alert before marrying a foreign national from a conflict stricken country as they could face a lifetime of captivity on foreign land by their husbands. This was the view of humanitarian activist Dr Imtiaaz Sooliman, with regards to the plight of Masnoenah Adams, a young South African woman from Mitchell’s Plain living in Yemen for the past decade. Adams married a Yemeni national ten years ago and is being held against her will in a village somewhere outside of the country’s capital, Sanaa.
While Adams’ family is frantically searching for ways to rescue their daughter, due to the volatile geo-political situation in the country, the chances of her return back home is an unlikely reality at this point.
According to Sooliman, Adams is caught in the middle of a war that has resulted in the Yemeni government’s decision to discontinue all flights in and out of the country.
“It is unfortunate but right now, there is no way the family will be allowed into the country. As we speak, there are about eight to ten South Africans stuck in different parts of Yemen. Some are in the bigger cities while others are in the most rural areas. There are even South African students studying at Islamic institutions who are unable to travel back home to their families,” Sooliman explained.
Having travelled in and out of the country over the past year on humanitarian missions, he described the situation as “dire”.
“Yemeni’s are displaced, living without shelter, food or clean water but there are little to no access for humanitarian aid via air travel. Only ships with humanitarian aid, facilitated by Yemeni NGO’s are being allowed into the country.”
Through his vast travels in the most poverty stricken, war torn countries, Sooliman noted an an increase in cases where young South African women are held against their will in their husband’s home country.
“There has been an increase in the number of women being held captive by their husbands in Pakistan. Once a women is found in a situation like that, especially in a country that does not share diplomatic ties with South Africa, her chances of coming home is relatively low,” Sooliman said.
In an attempt to have the intervention by the Department of International Relations and Co-operations bring some relief to the situation, the Adams family was told that the SA government cannot interfere in a domestic matter between husband and wife. As Sooliman explained, the department cannot answer to the beck and call of all South African women who are held against their will by their husbands, especially in countries where there is no South African embassy.
“I encourage South African women to be on high alert. In many cases, SA women meet a foreign national, spend a few weeks with him, get married and find out later that they got more than they bargained for. There are good foreign nationals out there but I maintain, you cannot get married to someone when you haven’t met their family and don’t know about their living conditions in their home countries. With all the conflict in the world and hostage situations that we’ve seen, it is not wise for local women to marry foreign men, hastily,” Sooliman warned. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)