Nazia Quazi reaches freedom in Dubai
After being held in Saudi Arabia for three years, Nazia Quazi will finally be free of her father’s control.
Photograph by: Handout photo, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — As of Monday morning, Nazia Quazi is free of her father’s control.
The young Muslim woman, who is a Canadian citizen and studied at the University of Ottawa, had been trapped in the Saudi Arabian capital for the past three years under the country’s male guardianship system that sees fathers speak on behalf of their unmarried daughters.
Her father refused to let the 24-year-old Quazi leave the country, allegedly because he didn’t approve of her boyfriend, Bjorn Singhal, whom she met in Ottawa.
Last night, Singhal, who had been communicating with her via text messages, reported that Quazi boarded a plane bound for Dubai, which was rolling away from the terminal when she had to turn off her phone. It landed in Dubai less than two hours later.
As soon as she was in the air, she was officially out of the reach of the male guardianship system and therefore free to make her own choices about where she lives and who she spends time with. The plan, Singhal said, is for them to marry in Dubai on Wednesday.
Quazi’s mother, who lives in Ottawa, travelled to Riyadh with her son last week, reportedly to try to convince her husband to let their daughter leave and be with her boyfriend.
It would seem she was successful as they all traveled to Dubai on Sunday night with Quazi for the wedding.
Singhal’s mother, who lives in Montreal, also travelled to Dubai on Sunday, to be there for her son’s wedding.
Singhal said the plan was to go to the high court and get married while also getting “the necessary paperwork done for Nazia to be with me legally.”
After that, he said, they’ll spend some time planning a proper reception and celebration of their marriage for family and friends.
Singhal hasn’t seen Quazi since he went to visit her in Riyadh in June 2008. While he was there, Quazi’s father, who goes by the name Quazi Malik Abdul Gaffar, told Singhal he called the authorities on him and that, if Singhal didn’t leave immediately and forget about his daughter, he would have him arrested.
“I just left quietly,” Singhal said Sunday by e-mail.
Remarking that it has been a long wait, he said that, even though Quazi reported to him that she was on the plane, he wouldn’t believe it until he actually saw her in Dubai.
When a member of a local group — Muslims for Progressive Values Ottawa —that has been lobbying for her release from Saudi Arabia asked Singhal to give Quazi a hug for them, he responded: “I am afraid I mite (sic) hug her so tight that she runs outta breath.”
Under Saudi law, the male guardianship system says fathers must make decisions for their unmarried daughters.
Quazi was living in housing provided by her employer and said her father was becoming increasingly violent and abusive.
Pressure for Quazi’s father to grant permission for her to leave has been mounting in recent weeks as politicians of all stripes have been calling for the Canadian citizen to be freed.
In addition, a few Canadian soldiers who received medals from the Saudi government for their service in the 1991 Gulf War have returned them to the embassy as a sign of protest.
Deepak Obhrai, minister of state for foreign affairs, said previously the government was in contact with Saudi officials, but couldn’t do much because of the country’s rules.