A mother who has been fighting for nearly 20 years for the return of her daughters, who were
abducted by their Saudi Arabian father and taken to his country, takes her cause to the world forum
this week, seeking to make the case that her girls and hundreds of others are trapped in a
contemporary form of slavery inside a sadistic, cruel culture.
Pat Roush will be addressing the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva on
behalf of the International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project, or HLP/IED, a
non-governmental organization granted consultative status at the U.N. She will be accompanying
Karen Parker, who is a director of HLP/IED and an attorney specializing in human rights and
“There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of American woman and children inside Saudi Arabia
who cannot leave,” Roush told WorldNetDaily. “They are terrified of being killed or beaten by either
their Saudi husbands or the Saudi government. They told this to Congressman Burton last year.
One woman told Burton’s aide, ‘My husband told me he would bury me alive and let my children
watch me die.’ Another begged, ‘Please, just put me and my children in the belly of the military plane
and get us out of here.'”
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., is the former chairman of the House
Government Reform and Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the issue, and
the Roush case in particular, for more than a year. Burton led a delegation in a fact-finding mission to
Saudi Arabia last fall.
“Having now heard firsthand of the terrible physical abuse suffered by hundreds of American
women who are trapped in Saudi Arabia, we hope that these women and children will freely avail
themselves of the protection of the embassy,” said a statement issued by Burton’s office following
Burton’s committee held hearings in
June, October and December during which Saudi public-relations representatives, and American
men and women who have had children abducted provided often-emotional testimony.
Young women who had been held captive by Saudi parents but managed to escape also
testified at the hearings, telling panel members that they were often beaten, locked up and sexually
abused by Saudi fathers and their relatives.
Saudi officials claim they are working hard to resolve the kidnapping cases, but Burton, Roush
and others remain skeptical.
The Saudi embassy in Washington has not responded to a request for comment.
Pat Roush and her children, Alia and Aisha
As WorldNetDaily has reported, Roush’s
ex-husband and the father of their children – Khalid al-Gheshayan – defied a court order in 1986 and
abducted Alia and Aisha, then 7 and 3 respectively, from Roush’s suburban Chicago home.
Al-Gheshayan took the girls back to Saudi Arabia, where women have substantially fewer rights,
and has prevented them from leaving. Now adults, both daughters have been married off and Alia,
24, gave birth last May. Roush asked for permission to visit her daughters and meet their husbands
but was refused.
Both women have expressed a desire to return to the U.S., Roush said, but repeatedly have
been denied visas and passports by the Saudi government, even though they are considered
American citizens allegedly being held against their will.
Roush has only seen her daughters once over the past 17 years. In June 1995 she met with
them for two hours in a hotel in Riyadh, during which Roush said the girls told her they loved her
and begged to go home with her. Roush talked to the younger daughter for five minutes by
telephone on Sept. 6, 2001, after the American Embassy in Riyahd gave her al-Gheshayan’s phone
number. Aisha said: “Hello, mom. I love you, mom. Come here, mom. Help,” before the phone was
snatched away, and the call cut short.
The girls, who were Christian, have been “converted” to Islam. During the pre-hearing meeting
with Burton’s committee last April the State Department conceded that they were subjected to
forced religious conversion. Due to this case, the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
contains a section on forced conversion.
Al-Gheshayan even threatened to “send someone to kill Ms. Roush” to embassy officials in
October 1988. Roush was not informed of this death threat until she read it in files she obtained
from the State Department under the Freedom Of Information Act several years later.
Roush and her elderly mother exhausted their savings and Roush’s mother sold her home to
finance three failed rescue missions between December 1988 and September 1994. Two men
were killed in January 1991 while on their way to the family villa in Riyadh to take physical custody of
the girls and get across the border into Qatar.
Roush brings her decades-old battle before the U.N. after having lobbied four administrations
and State Departments and losing all hope the U.S. government would help her. To the contrary,
she maintains it has been countering her efforts.
“The U.S. State Department has worked hand-in-glove with the Saudi Arabian government to
keep my innocent daughters captive inside Saudi Arabia,” Roush told WorldNetDaily. “They have
deliberately thwarted all my efforts to have my daughters, who were illegally stolen from me, brought
back to America where they were born. The State Department not only destroyed all my deals that
were arranged with the Saudis to return my girls, but they have participated in cover-ups, lied to
Congress, and taken sides with the Saudis.”
As an example, Roush cited an incident that happened last September while the congressional
delegation was visiting. The Saudi government spirited Roush’s daughters off to London and had
them participate in a televised interview on “The O’Reilly Factor,” hosted by Fox News broadcaster
and radio host Bill O’Reilly. During the interview, the girls – through a Saudi interpreter – said they
did not want to return to the U.S. with their mother.
But Roush and Burton believe the event was staged and that the girls never had an opportunity
to speak freely.
“This Stalinist show trial was produced by the Saudi government and directed by their PR flacks
and the State Department played the leading role,” said Roush.
Roush has asserted for years that the State Department has an alternative agenda in protecting
its relationship with the oil-rich kingdom – which has military bases critical for the coalition’s
operation in Iraq – and deliberately works to suppress all “bad news” concerning the Saudis.
Department officials deny the charge and say “relations don’t come into play” in the matter.
“We have throughout done everything within our power to try and get cooperation from the
Saudi government to get her daughters returned to her,” Stuart Patt, spokesman for the State
Department’s Consular Affairs Bureau told WND.
Patt said now that the girls are adults, their “circumstances change” and the State Department
treats them merely as American citizens abroad.
All eyes on the U.N.
“The U.N. Human Rights Commission is a good forum because it will embarrass the Saudis
and the U.S.,” said Roush who will be presenting a brief urging the commission to intervene in
child-abduction cases in states such as Saudi Arabia, that are not parties to The Hague Convention
on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
As the brief describes, the crux of the problem is Saudi law. Because Islam is the only “source”
of law, Saudi Arabia is not a U.N. state subject to international instruments for human rights, but a
religious entity assuming the control of a State. The only religion allowed in the kingdom is Islam and
all customs and behavior of Saudi nationals, whether public or private, must conform to the
interpretation of Islam as decreed by the King.
According to the Saudi interpretation of Islam, women and girls are completely under the
dominance and control of their Saudi fathers, brothers, husbands and other males in the family.
Saudi laws and customs approve of arranged marriage and marriage at an early age, thus ensuring
that girls and women cannot make even the most basic of life choices themselves. Saudi girls and
women may not travel independently without permission of a male family member and may not
drive automobiles or ride on public transportation alone. Women in Saudi Arabia do not vote, work
and rarely receive more than a rudimentary education without permission of male family members.
The brief notes a male family member who so wishes can keep a girl or woman within the confines of her home –
virtually under “house arrest” – for her entire life. Out of fear that their abducted daughters and wives will escape or that foreign officials or others
will try to “recapture” them, Saudi fathers and husbands typically prevent them from using the
telephone. And in the rare case that visitation rights are allowed, they’re under strict rules and
usually supervised by male relatives.
HLP/IED’s research shows many abducted children are subjected to wide abuse, including
mental and physical torture – most often rape. Basic freedoms are virtually non-existent.
The brief concludes the abductions and the aftermath constitute a contemporary form of
slavery, which cries for implementation of international human rights law.
There are U.N. treaties which, if fully implemented, would redress the violations in the cases of
child abductions to foreign countries by parents. These include The Convention on the Rights of the
Child, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and The
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Ironically Saudi Arabia has ratified these treaties even though it has not ratified many human
rights treaties. But the kingdom has ratified these relevant treaties with reservations that render
them ineffective. It claims exemptions to all articles and provisions which conflict with Islamic law.
“We totally reject anything that damages our Islamic sharia law on which a total system of the
state is founded, and which one-quarter of the population on this earth believe,” wrote the Saudi
foreign minister in a letter to Burton last December. “The sharia regulates and guarantees all
humanitarian rights without any prejudices. It is founded on God’s orders, which we follow as well
as the good objectives of Islam, namely justice.”
“I’d like to know where the justice is in denying Pat Roush her daughters for 17 years. And
where is the justice for harboring kidnappers? And we know that that’s been done, and we know
they’ve been complicit in this,” Burton complained.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or
USCIRF, a panel established by Congress in 1998 to promote religious freedom as a U.S.
policy goal, has documented egregious violations of human rights on the part of the Saudis.
As WND reported, the commission said
numerous foreign Christian workers in Saudi Arabia have been “detained, arrested, tortured, and
subsequently deported. Shi’a clerics and religious scholars are detained and imprisoned for their
religious views, which differ from those of the government.”
In 1997, two Filipino Catholics involved in Bible studies and prayers in a Saudi prison were
beheaded by sword. The men had been accused of “forced armed robbery,” but defenders claim
they were incarcerated on false charges.
Nevertheless, the State Department dismissed, USCIRF’s recommendations and recently left Saudi
Arabia off of its list of the worst violators of religious freedom.
Courting public opinion
As WND reported, the Saudis launched
a major public relations offensive last year to deflect accusations the kingdom sponsors terrorism,
amid the revelation that donations from Princess Haifa bint Faisal ended up in the hands of Sept. 11
“We believe that our country has been unfairly maligned,” said Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy
adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., lashing out at what
he called a “feeding frenzy” in America of “severe and outrageous criticism [that] borders on hate.”
WND also reported, the Saudis are
sparing no cost to wage their charm offensive. The New York Sun reports the kingdom forked over
$14.6 million to the public relations firm Qorvis Communications during one six-month period this
Without the benefit of millions, Roush seeks to shine the light on the horrific human rights
record of the Saudi Arabian government she said is well known but no one does anything about it.
She has chronicled her harrowing and inspiring story in a book just released by WND Books, a partnership of WorldNetDaily and Thomas
“By writing my book and presenting this issue of contemporary slavery inside the kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, and showing the complicity of the U.S. government, I hope to bring this very inhuman
treatment of American citizens to the attention of the world community and force them to get
involved,” she told WND. “If we can free the Afghan people and women and now spend billions of
dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money on a campaign to free the Iraqis, why won’t this government free
my daughters and the other American women and children in Saudi Arabia?”
“At Any Price,” Pat Roush’s inspiring, frightening and thoroughly riveting
story from WND Books, tells how a young woman found herself thrust into high-stakes international
politics due to her efforts to free children who were rightfully hers and how the U.S. government
betrayed her time and time again to protect Saudi interests. Order your copy now in WorldNetDaily’s online store, ShopNetDaily!
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