An abandoned mother’s cry for help

A Dubai mother has been left with “nothing but a life of pain” after she and her two ill children were abandoned by her polygamous Emirati ex-husband.

Fatima with Zayed, 7, and Saif, 6, as they play at their shared villa. Reem Mohammed / The National
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DUBAI // Two children in need of urgent medical care are trapped in the middle of a domestic dispute between their divorced parents.

The children, aged 6 and 7, live with their mother in a shared room with 12 other women in a villa in Dubai.

The family will soon be evicted and the mother is wanted by police for non-payment of rent on a previous home in Al Ain.

Marry Jane Santos, from the Philippines, married Ahmed Al Jaberi, an Emirati, in 2002. When they met he was divorced from another woman, also from the Philippines.

She blames Mr Al Jaberi for failing to support her or their two children since their divorce in 2010, and forcing them to live from hand to mouth.

He says he is not responsible for his ex-wife’s debts and that he cannot afford to pay for their accommodation in Dubai, but claims he would look after them if they returned to Al Ain.

Meanwhile the couple’s children are paying the price. The elder boy, Zayed, was born prematurely and has a learning disability. Their younger son, Saif, is diabetic but has never been to a doctor because he has no official documents.

“I lost his passport and mine. I begged their father to issue him a new one but he refused. I can’t do it because I am wanted by the police,” the mother says.

Ms Santos, who changed her name to Fatima after converting to Islam, says she knew her husband had been married before and had a son. “But … he said he loved me. He made lots of promises. He said he would take care of me and my family back home.”

She resigned from her job as a supermarket administrator based on her husband’s promise that would “take care of her”.

Three months into their marriage, she found out her husband was married to another Filipina. By that time, she says, she rarely saw him and he was already neglecting them.

“We fought and he said it was a mistake and he made more promises … that he would be around more and that he loved me.

“I filed for divorce because now we became three wives and he was never around. I couldn’t handle it any more.”

The divorce was finalised in 2010 and she was given custody of the two boys. Her ex-husband was ordered by a judge to pay Dh1,500 for “dwelling fare” and child support.

Fatima moved out of the family villa in Al Ain and rented a Dh30,000 one-bedroomed apartment, but her ex-husband refused to pay rent or child support and because the rent contract was in her name a warrant was issued for her arrest.

“I move from place to place,” she says. “I can’t pay the rent and so they kick us out.

“I want to go back to the Philippines. I have had nothing but a life of pain and struggle since I came.”

Mr Al Jaberi insists his ex-wife is to blame for her own misfortunes. “She moved to that small apartment next to our house in Al Ain and she left without paying rent and because of that she has this case against her,” he said.

“It’s her fault for moving out and taking a place in her name. I am not responsible for her debts.

“I have two families and six other children. I am tired of always paying for her recklessness.”

Mr Al Jaberi promised to renew his children’s passports “tomorrow”, and said if the family returned to Al Ain he would look after them.

However, Jameela Al Hameli, director of the Emirates Human Rights Association, said Mr Al Jaberi’s behaviour was “against every law, whether of the UAE or internationally. It is inhumane. How can a father do this to his children – to any human being?”

She said the Emirates Red Crescent was prepared to offer the family shelter and resolve their legal problems.

“These children are Emirati. They are our children and we will offer them all the support they need.”