Helping Hands: A mother’s uncertain future

Each week, The National reports on the work of the Dar Al Ber Society. Today, the story of a woman who says her former husband is pushing her to leave the safety of the UAE to return to her war-torn homeland of Syria.

L T says her former husband is trying to force her to return to her native Syria, a situation requiring her to leave their four children behind in the UAE with him. Reem Mohammed / The National
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A 40-year-old Syrian mother-of-four said her former husband has effectively “sentenced her to death” by trying to force her to leave the safety of the UAE and return to war-torn Homs.

“You cannot imagine how it’s like, living in fear that when your child goes to school they might never come back, or constantly hearing explosions, gunfire and bombs going off near you,” said L T, whose children are aged 17, 16, 11 and 7.

“Or walking down the street one day and have an explosion go off near you and seeing body parts flying everywhere.

“This was our life in Syria.”

Most of her family are dead or have fled to other countries. Her husband originally consented to bringing L T and their children to the UAE, where he had a business selling incense and perfume.

Their relationship was not without problems, said L T.

“We were never OK with each other,” she said. “I never saw him and he was always travelling to the UAE and Russia but things got so bad in our hometown that he was forced to bring us here.”

A year after the family arrived, said L T, her husband decided she should return to Syria and leave the children with him. “He said I was to leave the UAE and go back,” she said. “He said he would take the kids.”

L T went to the Sharjah courts in her bid to stay in the UAE and avoid what she believed would be certain death in Homs.

“The judge told him that he had no right to do such a thing and told me that I could file for divorce,” she said.

She was granted a divorce two years ago and her husband was ordered to pay her Dh3,000 a month to cover the family’s costs. “From the Dh3,000 I was to pay for housing, electricity, transport, food – everything,” said L T who appealed the amount and it was increased to Dh5,000.

But she said her husband never paid regularly. “We have no food, no money and the children don’t go to school because he hasn’t paid the fees,” she said.

“Whenever it’s time for him to pay, he travels and disappears.”

She said the landlord was threatening to evict them for rent arrears.

“He took the child support and said he would rent a place for us,” she said of her former husband.

L T is an Arabic literature graduate but lost all of her documents when she fled Syria. She started looking for a job to support her children but, she said, her husband threatened to have her deported.

She said she did not want charity, only shelter for her children and a job to support them.

To compound her problem, her residency visa expires next month.

Her former husband will not renew it and has filed a case to take custody of their children.

“I have no one in Syria,” she said. “I can’t go back there and I want to keep my children.

“My ex-husband told the judge I can’t take care of them. How can I if he doesn’t pay me child support or want me to work?

“He keeps threatening to send me back to Syria.”

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of zakat and social services at Dar Al Ber, said: “This woman has not asked for money – she wants a job to be able to support and shelter her children.

“We hope someone can offer her a decent job that will help her support her children – and suitable accommodation – until she can support her children herself.”

Two week ago, L T’s former husband took her eldest son and filed another case, this time to keep him and not pay child support.

“I haven’t seen my boy in two weeks. I don’t know where he is.”