Family Leaves Hiding to Return Home
by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, June 11 (Compass) -- A Jordanian Christian widow threatened with loss of the legal guardianship of her two children was assured in late May by representatives of her government that the children will not be removed from her custody.
Siham Qandah was reportedly called in for an interview with the Jordanian intelligence services, who informed her they had been assigned to assist her because of the "international attention" her case had received.
"They told Siham they would not let anyone harm her, or take her children from her," a close friend of the widow told Compass, "and they promised they would find a solution to her problem."
After receiving these assurances, Qandah felt sufficiently secure to return home to Husn, in northern Jordan, where her children are completing their schoolwork and exams before the summer break begins in mid June.
During April, Qandah had fled from her home, taking both of her children out of school. Her daughter Rawan, 13, and her son Fadi, 12, went into hiding with her.
Under a final ruling issued by Jordan's Court of Cassation, Qandah had been ordered to relinquish custody of her children to be raised as Muslims, based on the alleged conversion of her Christian husband to Islam three years before his death.
In a civil court case unusual for moderate Jordan, Qandah's Muslim brother filed for full custody of his nephew and niece. Although born and raised in the same Christian home with Qandah, her brother had converted to Islam in his youth. Now a prayer leader in his local mosque, he insisted that his brother-in-law's conversion required that Qandah's minor children be raised as Muslims, as dictated by Islamic law.
Qandah and her family questioned the validity of the conversion certificate, which did not even carry her late husband's signature. When he died abroad in 1994, serving in the Jordanian army under U.N. peacekeeping forces, his body was brought home for Christian funeral rites. His wife only learned of his alleged conversion several months later, when she applied for his military benefits for herself and the children.
Judicial proceedings in the case went on for nearly four years, as it bounced from civil and religious courts into Jordan's courts of appeal. The final rejection published by Jordan's highest court of appeal on February 28 became effective on March 31, when it was delivered in writing to the local court of origin in Irbid.
Qandah has been given no indication as to what kind of "solution" is to be enacted on her behalf, although one of her brothers in Husn admitted they expect something to happen in the next few days or weeks.
"We have a strong belief that the Lord will never forget His children's prayers," he told Compass by telephone yesterday.
Qandah and her children are actively involved in the church services and Sunday School of the Husn Baptist Church, where two of her brothers are also members.