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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Jordan king urged to help widow
Siham Qandah with her children (picture: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
Qandah's plight combines religion, law and family loss

Religious rights activists are urging King Abdullah of Jordan to intervene in the case of a Christian widow who has gone into hiding after being ordered to surrender her children to her estranged Muslim brother.

The London-based organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide says the woman, Siham Qandah, was told on Monday that she had seven days to hand over her teenage son and daughter.

It is the latest round in a bitter custody battle that highlights the pitfalls awaiting Christians caught up in the workings of Jordan's Islamic courts.

It is a complicated story that combines religion, law and family loss.

Conversion questions

Mrs Qandah's troubles date back to the death of her husband - who was a UN peacekeeper in Kosovo.

King Abdullah
King Abdullah has been asked to intervene

When Mrs Qandah applied for the transfer of his army pension, an Islamic court stepped in to halt the process saying that he had converted to Islam before his death, and his children had therefore automatically become Muslims as well.

The family argues to this day that Mr Qandah had given no indication of converting - he had baptised his children and was given a Christian burial and death certificate.

Be that as it may, the court ruling meant that the children would only be able to receive their inheritance through a Muslim guardian.

Mrs Qandah's brother - who converted to Islam as a teenager - agreed to act as their legal guardian so they could get their money.

But he later applied for full custody of the children, even though they had only met him once.

In hiding

During the three-year custody battle that followed, another court ruled that Mrs Qandah had proved herself unfit to be the children's custodian because, it said, she had distanced them from Islamic ritual and doctrine.

Eventually her brother - who is now a Muslim cleric - won custody of his nephew and niece.

It is that ruling, confirmed by Jordan's Supreme Court, which has led to the family's plight today.

They are now in hiding somewhere in Jordan.

They want to leave the kingdom - but even that could be complicated by the fact that the children have been blacklisted on immigration computers.

See also:

08 Jan 00 | Middle East
08 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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