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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 6/26/2002 7:36:56 AM EST
The Wall Street Journal June 26, 2002 All the President's Women Editorial http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB1025048374483561720.djm,00.html White House spokesman Ari Fleischer should stop referring to grown women as children. The women in question are Amjad Radwan and Alia and Aisha Gheshayan, three American citizens in Saudi Arabia whose fate has finally become an issue for Congress. When reporters at a White House press briefing recently deluged Mr. Fleischer with questions about whether President Bush had raised their plight during an Oval Office chat with the visiting Saudi Foreign Minister, he repeatedly -- eight times by our count -- invoked the word "custody" or "custody of a child" to characterize how the "President views this." It's true that a number of American mothers have had an awful time getting children out of Saudi Arabia, though even here it beggars belief to reduce these to custody disputes. But two of the three cases that the House Government Reform Committee aired during its hearings did not involve children. Amjad Radwan is 19 years old and, unlike her older brother, cannot leave Saudi Arabia because she is a woman and must have the permission of her Saudi father, who refuses to give it. In highly charged testimony delivered via videotape, Amjad's mom, Monica Stowers, told the House she remains in Saudi Arabia because she fears for her daughter's life; Miss Stowers further reported that both her son and daughter were raped by members of her former husband's family. Alia and Aisha Gheshayan are also adults. When pressed on this point, the State Department says it has made every effort to ascertain the women's wishes about returning to America. In the case of Miss Roush's daughters, however, State concedes that it hasn't seen them since the mid-1990s. Moreover, its own human-rights report on Saudi Arabia declares that "physical spousal abuse and violence against women" is "common" and that the Saudi government tends to look the other way. Translation: The only way these Americans are going to be able to speak freely, without fear of returning home to a beating, is to insist that Riyadh give them the exit visas that will allow them to come here. The truth is that there isn't a soul at State or the Saudi Foreign Ministry who doesn't understand that if President Bush were to express his displeasure to Crown Prince Abdullah, then Alia, Aisha and Amjad would be on the next plane for New York. And things would never have reached this dismal stage if the State Department hadn't signaled from the start that it was willing to let all the ground rules be set by Saudi law and custom -- even in defiance of U.S. courts, arrest warrants and rights.
Link Posted: 6/26/2002 7:37:41 AM EST
Last June, 23 Senators, including leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, signed a letter urging Secretary of State Colin Powell "in the strongest possible terms, to intervene forcefully and in person with the Saudi authorities at the highest levels to secure the prompt release and repatriation of Alia and Aisha Gheshayan." The immediate answer was the standard State kiss-off: a letter explaining that the women were "subject to Saudi law." But it seems that Congressional interest can have a catalyzing effect on Foggy Bottom. At hearings last Tuesday before the House International Relations Committee, William Burns, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, disclosed that Mr. Powell has now raised the issue with the Saudi Foreign Minister and that he himself brought it up with Crown Prince Abdullah 10 days earlier, on the eve of the Government Reform Committee's hearings. But Mr. Burns continued to define the issue as a custody dispute. And his remarks suggest that State still refuses to treat this as a state-to-state issue, in favor of a touchy-feely approach about "keeping families connected." This is a long way from "Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead" -- Teddy Roosevelt's tart reaction when a Berber bandit chieftain took an American hostage in Tangier. In a TV spot running under the title "Allies Against Terrorism," the Saudi government urges Americans to "listen to America's leaders" when it comes to the "facts" about the country that spawned 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers. It features President Bush vouching for how the Saudis have been "nothing but cooperative." This is their chance to prove it.
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