He was a poor Saudi teenage runaway in a big city. Without a family to support him, he was earning scruples pushing wheelchairs in the Grand Mosque. Desperate to get married, he wed a young Nigerian overstayer, fell in love with her and had five children. He was finally arrested for harboring an illegal overstayer.
Now 13 years later, Haidar Abdullah Mansour’s epic is a story of hardship, love and now pain at being imprisoned and separated from his beloved wife who possibly faces deportation.
“I was desperate to get married. I asked many families for their daughters’ hands in marriage but I wasn’t successful because I had no money and no steady job. The only way I could settle down and start a family was by marrying an overstayer,” said Mansour.
Arab News met the Saudi in a cell at the Expatriate Monitoring Department in Makkah to find out why the young man married an overstayer and how he now ended up in such a hopeless situation.
As the authorities review his case and that of his wife’s, Mansour and his wife have been separately detained and kept under lock and key. Crying and trembling, he told Arab News, “I didn’t have an easy upbringing. My relationship with my parents was strained and when I was at an elementary school, at the age of around six, my dad took me out of school.”
Mansour, who used to live in Abha, explained how until the age of 16 he continued having problems with his father and so decided to run away to Makkah and try making an earning by himself. “I bought myself a wheelchair and began pushing old people inside the Grand Mosque,” he said.
As he began to grow older, Mansour decided to get married but was refused by many people until he finally met his wife. “It does not cost that much to marry an overstayer because they aren’t bothered about paperwork and certificates and whether you have a family or not. My wife is from Nigeria and I love her,” said Mansour.
Mansour’s wife had arrived in the Kingdom on an Umrah visa and had overstayed together with her mother. “Her father had died and her mother was ready to marry her to me because she couldn’t afford to support her,” said Mansour, adding that he married his wife with a group of witnesses but could not officially register the marriage because she was an overstayer.
“I was forced to violate the law and marry an overstayer because none of the Saudi families would accept me. I was young and didn’t realize the seriousness of what I was doing. In the end, I ended up loving her and I still do so,” he said.
Mansour grew attached to his wife and in the 13 years they were married, the couple had five children. He said: “Her family began piling pressure on me to divorce her. I did not want to divorce her for the sake of my children and because I loved her. One day when I came back home I was shocked to find that she had disappeared with the children. She called me later from her family’s house and demanded a divorce and maintenance money for the children.”
Mansour says he was devastated and remained separated for an entire year. “I used to see my children on the weekends. I didn’t like the arrangement but what could I do? Then after a while one day she again disappeared,” he said.
“I contacted the police, who rejected what I was saying because there were no official papers proving the marriage. Then one day I saw her by coincidence in a shopping center in Makkah and we began to argue over why she had disappeared without telling me,” said Mansour. It was then that the police arrested the couple and realized the delicate nature of the situation.
Mansour says he needs help. “The officials need to review my case and come to some decent agreement. She is my wife, I love her and I admit committing a crime but I was ignorant of the law, young and silly,” he said.
Sympathizing with his case, lawyer Saad Al-Qahtani contacted Mansour and offered his services free of charge. “He would be sent to Abha where his family lives. They would need to bail him out,” he said. “I’m trying my best, but I hope the authorities sympathize with him and take into consideration the desperate situation he was in that drove him into marrying an overstayer,” Al-Qahtani added.