Monday Jun 17, 2019
The following was narrated by Haleema Bibi to Ali Haider Habib of the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) about her daughter, Sameena, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia and remains in prison there to this day.
It has been five long years. Five years that feel like 50. My daughter Sameena was going to perform Umrah. She had been there a few times before and she’d managed to save up enough to go again. How fortunate was she to be able to perform Umrah for a second time?
There was an air of celebration, excitement and gratitude. I couldn’t wait for her to come back and tell me her stories. I told her what duas to recite, and who to pray for. Above all, I told her to be careful. We are not ones to cross oceans every day.
Before Sameena left Karachi, an acquaintance asked her to take some medicines with her. He said a man would come to collect them from the airport and that she would be given some money for bringing them to Saudi Arabia. He told her she would be paid the equivalent of around Rs15,000 to 20,000 upon her arrival. That is a considerable sum for people with our limited means. She thought it would help her with the travel expenses there. Maybe she could even save some of it to bring back home. That’s how we had always scraped by, depending on the generosity of relatives and neighbours.
The medicines, however, turned out to be contraband.
Sameena was arrested immediately upon her arrival in Jeddah. I found out days later that she had been imprisoned. There was no official communication, no legal help. She was not provided a lawyer or any other legal guidance. I don't even know how long she has been sentenced for. I only know it’s been five years that I haven’t seen my daughter.
I yearn for her face every day. To run my hands through her hair, to hold her in my arms. There is no greater pain for a mother than to be separated from her child. Sameena is now around 32 or 33-years-old. But to me, she is a baby. My baby.
I pray to Prime Minister Imran Khan to bring my daughter back. To return her to me. We heard that he had requested the Saudi government to release Pakistani prisoners. I cannot stop wondering if Sameena will be one of the 2,107 prisoners they have promised to release.
I am old now. I do not have the strength to bear this grief anymore. So I try to turn my despair into hope. I spent my waking hours’ daydreaming. Dreaming about Sameena’s return. Had she come back just in time for us to spend Eid together, maybe we could have had a feast. Yes! We would have invited everyone. They would have seen our joy and would have wanted to be part of it. Five years is too long a wait. It’s time for her to come back.
They’ll let her now, won’t they?
Disclaimer: This is a personal blog, published in collaboration with the JPP. We make no representations as to accuracy, correctness or validity of any information in this article. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Geo News or the Jang Group.