WASHINGTON – Demanding that the federal government do more to help U.S. citizens held against their will in Saudi Arabia, three mothers of kidnapped offspring testified at a House committee hearing yesterday, telling members how their children were abducted illegally by their former husbands and forced to live in the Middle Eastern kingdom.
Members of the House Committee on Government Reform, agreeing that the government should take more action on behalf of kidnapped Americans, promised to write a letter to President Bush asking for his personal involvement in the international kidnappings.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the committee, said the letter will attempt to persuade the president to ask Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that the American citizens be released and allowed to come back to the U.S.
Saudi Arabia “must be taken to task,” he said during the hearing.
Patricia Roush, whose two daughters, Alia and Aisha Gheshayan, were taken from her 16 years ago, testified at the hearing – titled “Should the United States Do More to Help U.S. Citizens Held Against Their Will in Saudi Arabia?” – as part of her continuing efforts to have her daughters returned to the U.S.
Roush told WorldNetDaily she was “heartened” by the hearing.
“This is the most press we’ve gotten in ages,” she said.
In her statement to the committee, Roush said: “Saudi Arabia has violated my human rights and the human rights and constitutional rights afforded to my daughters as American citizens. The U.S. State Department is an accessory and active conspirator in the denial of these rights.”
Burton asked Roush if the State Department currently had a plan to bring her daughters back to the U.S.
“The State Department never had a plan to get my daughters out of Saudi Arabia,” she answered.
Ethel Stowers is the grandmother of Amjad Radwan, who also is being held captive by her father in Saudi Arabia. Stowers testified that the State Department is doing nothing to help her daughter, Monica Stowers, get Amjad back.
A video of Monica’s testimony was presented at the hearing. She related the story of how she brought her daughter and son to the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia to seek help and was told by the staff that they could not help her. She refused to leave, fearing Saudi police might arrest her. The embassy had two marines force her to leave, she said.
The committee grilled two staff members of the State Department for information concerning kidnapped children in Saudi Arabia. They said the child abduction cases were some of the most “difficult and tragic” cases they have had to deal with.
Ryan Cocker, deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, said they are “particularly difficult” because the department has to work through the laws of the countries in which the abducted Americans reside.
Defending the State Department, Cocker testified that the agency has “not been inactive” in the parental kidnapping cases. Officials try to talk to Saudi government personnel and try to arrange meetings between the mothers and their children, he says.
The problems the State Department face are with the Saudi government, officials testified. Saudi men have complete control over their children, including the right to physically and sexually abuse them. The Saudi government gives them this right and refuses to get involved in the situations, the State officials asserted, even if the victim is a kidnapped American citizen.
Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., said he was “appalled” at the way the women were treated by their own embassy and State Department.
“Something’s got to change here,” he said.
Ose remarked that with all the funding Congress gives the State Department, they should be able to do something more to help victims of Saudi kidnappings.
Since she could get no help from the U.S. government, Miriam Hernandez-Davis arranged for her daughter, Alexandria Davis, to escape from Saudi Arabia. Her ex-husband had taken her daughter to Saudi Arabia, and refused to let Alexandria return and beat her when she asked to go back to her mother, Alexandria testified. Miriam told the committee she paid $180,000 for her daughter’s escape. Alexandria is one of the few kidnapped children who managed to return to the U.S.
“I could not understand why my country would let me down and not help me,”Alexandria told the committee members.
Many members said that the U.S. needs to re-evaluate its relationship with Saudi Arabia because the Saudis are violating human rights.
“In many respects,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., “Saudi Arabia doesn’t act like an ally.”
Also testifying yesterday, Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, said that oil the U.S. obtains from Saudi Arabia is not worth the restrictions and abuse the Saudis direct towards American citizens.
Asking the witnesses for names of individuals within the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, as well as in the FBI and State Department that refused to help them, committee members vowed to investigate the parties responsible. Burton told Ethel Stowers he would subpoena the woman who forced her daughter to leave the embassy to compel her appearance before a committee hearing.
A letter to Bush from the committee was to be drafted yesterday, asking for the president’s personal help in rescuing as many as 92 known kidnapped children being held in Saudi Arabia.
The committee also planned to look into stopping the issuance of visas and passports to those involved in abduction cases.
Roush mentioned that on Tuesday, a State Department representative called and told her that her 19-year-old daughter had been “sold” in marriage to a Saudi – something she was sure would happen if the girls weren’t returned. As reported by WND, her older daughter, now 23, was married off earlier to a relative of her father. Roush fears for her daughters and any future children they may have by their husbands – men who are now their masters.
Though the hearing gave her hope and went “extremely well,” she says, the fight isn’t over until her daughters are home.