Many years ago, the young Saudi woman was standing in front of the General Court in Riyadh waiting for a cab to take her and her mother back home. She had little idea the taxi driver who would pick them up would turn her life upside down forever by fooling her into thinking he was a Saudi with a genuine ID card.
Telling her story to Al-Riyadh newspaper, Um Mashari said the taxi driver, who was good looking, soft-spoken and polite, told them he was desperately looking for a bride.
She said: “My mother, who was attracted to his good looks, mannerisms and polite language, immediately offered me to him.
“He readily accepted, thanking my mother for her valuable offer.”
She recalled the man, who spoke in a perfect Saudi accent and wore a beautiful Saudi thobe (the Arab cultural dress), came to their home the next day accompanied by a number of old men.
She said: “We tied the knot with the old men being witnesses.
“Because we had no male companion in our home, my mother asked him to live with us and he did.”
Um Mashari said two years into the marriage they had their first daughter, who is now 18.
She said he took her to the hospital and registered her under his own name.
She said: “The years passed and my mother died. We had three boys whom he registered in his name.
“All was well so far but the shocking surprise would soon unfold.”
Um Mashari said one day a man knocked at her door.
She asked him who he was but he told her that he had discovered that her children were registered under his national ID, not her husband’s.
“The shock was devastating for me. I did not know what to say to him or to my husband.”
Um Mashari said she finally called her husband and told him about the man's allegations.
Her husband admitted to her that he was not a Saudi citizen but a foreigner living in this country.
She said: “He asked me never to call him again. From that day on he completely disappeared from my life.”
Um Mashari said after 18 years of a happy marriage she discovered that her husband had married her with a forged identity card and used the same ID to issue birth certificates for his children.
Um Mashari said now her children are encountering problems because their schools are asking them many times to bring their father with them.
“I had to lie to the schools and told them that my husband was traveling.
“I went to many government departments telling them my story and none of them have done anything to end my predicament.”
Um Mashari, who is now 49, has hired a lawyer to follow up her case in the courts but there does not seem to be any solution in sight.
She said her daughter refused many proposals because she did not have any official documents to prove she was Saudi.
"I am aging and in poor health. All my fears are for my children. What will happen to them when I am gone?"
She said she was living on the financial assistance of SR1,400 paid to her mother by the Ministry of Social Affairs, in addition to the meager salary of her eldest son, 17, who dropped out of school and decided to work to help her.
Um Mashari said all her attempts to reach her husband had failed.
“I heard that he is still living in the Kingdom and has gotten himself another Saudi wife using another forged ID.”
She has appealed to the government and philanthropists to help solve her problem.
Commenting on her case, Saudi lawyer Bayan Zahran said the Ministry of Social Affairs should intervene to solve her problem.
“The ministry could liaise in this regard with the Department of Civil Affairs.”
She said the woman's marriage was correct because it was done by a marriage official and was witnessed by a number of elderly men.
“The marriage was built on the data of an ID that nobody knew at the time was forged.
“Accordingly she could cancel her marriage contract or get khula (a woman getting a divorce without the consent of her husband).”
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 14, 2014.SHOW MORE