That’s what happens when you marry a Muslim. You give up your rights as a woman and as an American. Now you’ve lost your kids. You got what you deserved.
The Republic Authorities in the U.S. have accused a divorced Palestinian man, Ahmed Abuhamda, of illegally moving his three children from their home in Kansas to his native Gaza earlier this year. Abuhamda has been charged in Kansas with aggravated interference with parental custody. Last week, he was charged in a federal criminal complaint in U.S. District Court with fleeing to avoid prosecution on the three state felony counts.
The federal court filing alleges Abuhamda used his sister’s wedding in Gaza to convince his ex-wife, Bethany Gonzales, to sign off on passport applications for the children — 13-year-old Jehed, 10-year-old Edhem and 9-year-old Jannah. He picked up the three children from school Feb. 21, but instead of returning the children in March, he unlawfully kept them in Gaza, according to court documents.
Gonzales contends she allowed the children to go to Gaza in February for the wedding and that Abuhamda led her to believe he had booked flights back to the U.S. for them. She showed the AP an email she said her ex-husband sent her beforehand that indicated a “reservation confirmed” flight back to Kansas. (And you actually believed him?)
“There is no way I would agree for my kids to go there and stay there,” said Gonzales, 32. She said she contacted authorities after she found out the return flight information was fake. By then, her ex-husband’s apartment had been cleaned out. She said she later got a text message from him saying he was not coming back.
The U.S.-born Gonzales met Abuhamda in Missouri after converting to Islam at age 15. The couple talked over the phone for a year and went out on couple of dates before deciding to marry in 1996, when Gonzales was 16. She and Abuhamda moved sporadically between the U.S. and Gaza between 1997 and 2005. Their oldest son, Jehed, was born in Gaza, while the other two children were born in the U.S. After their divorce, the couple lived a 10-minute drive apart in Overland Park.
However, Under the couple’s 2008 divorce decree, the children lived with the father and the mother had visitation rights. The divorce decree allows Abuhamda to move the children overseas, provided he has their mother’s permission. Abuhamda told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the Gaza Strip that he had her blessing, but Gonzales said that’s untrue and he deceived her. (After all those years with a Muslim, you’re shocked that he would lie to you?)
Though U.S. authorities have charged Abuhamda, authorities in Gaza are unlikely to pursue the matter. The U.S. arrest warrant can be registered with Interpol, but Gaza does not have to honor it. Gonzales could appeal diplomatically to Hamas leaders and try to put political pressure on authorities there, but there’s little guarantee they would listen.
The Hague Convention, an international treaty that provides for the return of wrongfully removed or retained children, includes only one Muslim nation, Turkey, said Andrew Zashin, an international family law attorney from Cleveland, Ohio, who is not involved in the case.
Family law in Gaza, like in most Arab countries, is based on Sharia Islamic law. It awards legal guardianship of the child to the father while granting physical custody for rearing the child to the mother until a boy reaches age 9 and a girl reaches age 12, although some countries have now extended that to age 15 regardless of gender. However, a mother would not be able to leave the country with her children without the father’s permission.