"Please tell God to take me to you," screams Lina Jaber in a gut-wrenching video of her weeping, kneeling down meters away from her daughter's grave. "You are a martyr of injustice and brutality," she continues. "Heaven is so lucky to have you."
A heartbreaking video that surfaced on social media on Wednesday shows a Lebanese mother mourning her daughter's death ... except she couldn't even lean on her grave. Jaber, who had been forbidden from seeing her daughter Maya for nearly three years, was barred from even attending the funeral. Her ex-husband, Ali Ismail, even went as far as burying his daughter inside his fenced garden to prevent the mother from visiting her.
Maya's exact cause of death remains mysteriously unclear to this day, but reports claim the 14-year-old was killed by an accidental stray bullet on Jan. 25, 2020. The video depicts the moment Jaber finally reunited with her now-deceased daughter, 62 days after her passing.
Jaber's misery heightened at the death of her daughter, but she has been suffering for a while
Upon hearing the news of her daughter's death, Jaber rushed to the hospital and spent the night at the morgue, according to her sister Zeina, who says the entire family was forbidden from witnessing the burial or attending the funeral.
But Jaber has been suffering long before her daughter was gone. After their divorce was declared official on May 24, 2017 in Qana, Lebanon, Ismail supposedly signed a decree allowing Jaber to see her two kids, Maya and Mohammad, three times per week, Jaber's sister Zeina told Annahar newspaper.
Except the husband lied and got away with it. And because Jaber couldn't afford to hire a lawyer, she was left at the mercy of her cruel ex-husband who had full custody of both kids.
Reports even claim Ismail went as far as pulling his son Mohammad out of school and sending him off to work in Africa to prevent him from visiting his mother while raising Maya in Tyre and brainwashing her with inaccurate information about her mother. The indoctrination went so far that Maya eventually refused to see her mother or even communicate with her.
For divorced Lebanese mothers with young kids, the story is more or less the same
Jaber isn't the first Lebanese mother who had to sacrifice losing her children at the expense of ending an unwanted relationship through divorce. That's because child custody provisions force many women to endure violence and domestic abuse rather than pursue divorce, fearing they would otherwise lose custody of their children.
For the thousands of Lebanese mothers left at the mercy of the country's personal status laws and religious courts, the pain is one and the story is more or less the same. This comes as Lebanon does not have a unified civil personal status law but instead leaves it to each of its religious sects to apply its own law on personal matters such as custody over children.
In all denominations, custody in the event of divorce is mainly determined based on the child's age. Mothers only take custody of their young children up until a certain age, which varies per sect (refer to the above table), after which custody reverts to the fathers, like in the case of Maya and Mohammad.
However, Muslim Sunni and Christian judges are allowed to take into account the best interest of the child while deciding who maintains primary care, but this remains subject to the judges' discretionary authority.
According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), women can easily lose custody of their children if they remarry. They can also be deemed "unfit" for custody over actions such as having a tattoo, posting photos on Facebook, or having a job.
Maybe Lebanese women haven't been silent all these years but its due time we raise our voices even louder. We've seen what happens when we let our faith rest upon the hands of unjust laws and moody religious figures, who have continued to serve the patriarchy for decades and don't plan on stopping any time soon.
Protecting Lebanese Women (PLW), an NGO based in Beirut advocating for raising child custody age for Muslim Shiaa's, called for a gathering this Saturday in front of The Islamic Shiaa council.