U.S. House of Representatives
STATEMENT OF PATRICIA M. ROUSH
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM
107th Congress, 2nd Session Washington, D.C
June 12, 2002
Good morning, Chairman Burton and Members of the Committee. I am pleased to participate in this panel and present you with my testimony regarding my sixteen and one half year struggle to free my two daughters, Alia and Aisha Gheshayan, from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I have previously testified before the House International Relations Committee in 1987- Sub Committee for the Near East concerning violations of human rights of American citizens by the Saudi Arabian government. The Honorable Tom Lantos was Chair and his very powerful words addressing Assistant Secretary of State Marion Creekmore continue to remain with me. “Is this the image that you want to portray of the United States? That of the impotent giant that cannot get back two little innocent children from Saudi Arabia?” Secretary Creekmore’s response was, “I don’t think the withholding of visas to the United States for Saudis is the proper way to resolve this.” Several men that testified before that committee have received huge payoffs from the Saudi government —some as high as $25,000,000. I didn’t want any blood money, just my little girls. But I never got them back and unlike the men at the hearing who were paid off by the Saudis, my family and I were forced to pay the price —in sacrifice, tears and degradation at the hands of the Saudis and the U.S. Department of State.
By way of background, for the last sixteen years I have tirelessly pioneered the issue of American children kidnapped and taken abroad. My relentless efforts over the years led to the creation of the Office of Children’s Issues at the State Department intended to advocate on behalf of the littlest American citizens snatched to foreign countries, and to enactment of the International Parental Kidnapping Act in 1993. The Hague Treaty on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was signed in 1987 by the United States because of the high profile of my case in the Congress and the press. The Office of Children’s Issues, unfortunately, has never been what it was intended to be, which is a place of authority that U.S. citizens can turn to for assistance in having their children returned from foreign countries. Instead, it is merely another file collecting agency of the federal government
However, this forum is not about child abduction. The kidnapping of American children and taking them inside the borders of foreign nations, outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts is a tragedy and heinous crime but the retention, detention, exploitation, abuse, and lose of American lives in foreign countries due to the lack of intervention of the U.S. government is a crime against humanity and God.
Working to free my daughters has become a ‘Mission Impossible’ assignment that I have accepted as part of my daily life. I have been successful in convincing Members of Congress to object to Senatorial Confirmation of certain U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and alter Arms Packages to Saudi Arabia because of my daughters’ kidnappings. I have had hand delivered letters to three U.S. Presidents in the Oval Office, lobbied four State Departments, and appeared on countless television and radio programs. A tremendous amount of print media has covered my story. I have traveled and spoken to countless people in all walks of life all over the world to try to get my daughters released from Saudi Arabia and am authoring a book about my story which will be available early next year.
Before my two daughters were kidnapped my seven year old would sing with such delight, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow. It’s only a day awayÖ ” This was her favor song from the movie, ‘Annie’, about a little girl who was lost and found. But the happy ending from the Hollywood movie never materialized for my little girls and as the Arabic folk expression states, “Twenty years will soon be tomorrow” became their reality.
The girls are now women — ages twenty-three and nineteen. They were kidnapped and taken to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia by their Saudi National father in 1986. They were three and seven at the time. This is the father they hardly knew and feared who had a documented history of a severe mental illness with a paranoid and violent ideation.
His status was well known to the U.S./Saudi officials, but for the last sixteen plus years two American citizens, my daughters, have spent their childhood ó and now their early adulthood — captive in Saudi Arabia without so much as a protest from the U.S. government. They languish in a medieval, madness filled with superstition and religious fanaticism. The country is ruled by a single family of corrupt, degenerative, greedy princes with an insatiable appetite for more and more and more. ‘The Prize’ is of course, the oil, and the stakes are high. High enough for the government of the United States to sacrifice any ideals and scruples they might have to keep this totalitarian regime operating.
My daughters have become victims of the endless gamesmanship between U.S. diplomats and the Saudi family princes. Ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are long and deep rooted, cemented by long-standing military and economic interests. The U.S. is the leading supplier of defense equipment and services to the kingdom. Billions of dollars of U.S. merchandise are exported to Saudi Arabia each year. And in turn Saudi exports to the U.S. last year totaled more than fourteen billion dollars. Vast amounts of seemingly unlimited money and deals have made the U.S./Saudi ‘special relationship’ an unflappable phenomenon. An unsinkable ship that everyone from entrepreneurs to U.S. Presidents has wanted to jump on. Despite the facts of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government still soft pedals the Saudi regime, makes excuses for them and does “business as usual”.
“The United States closes its mouth, its eyes, its ears. It’s a shame on the Administration that they are not helping this lady. When it comes to the Saudi-American relationship, the White House should be called the ‘White Tent.’” (Former Saudi diplomat Mohammed Al-Khilewi who defected from the Saudi Mission to the United States in 1994.)
Saudi Arabia has violated my human rights and the human rights and Constitutional rights afforded to my daughters as American citizens. The U.S. State Department is an accessory and active conspirator in the denial of these rights. The U.S. government receives benefits from the Saudi Arabia government in various forms which induce it to violate these rights.
Everyone is entitled to freedom from fear. The U.S. State Department and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have both intentionally used their great power to create fear to intimate and threaten me and my daughters as I shall explain in this testimony.
My daughters are victims of forced religious conversion as outlined in the International Religious Freedom Act, which has a special section that was written expressively because of my daughters’ situation in Saudi Arabia. A member of the State Department finally admitted this victimization during a recent briefing concerning my case. My Christian daughters were forced to convert to Islam and as you know, religious choice is not an option in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They could be put to death if they even spoke the name of Jesus.
This is also an act of ethnocide. My daughters have had their culture taken away and been denied their heritage. Do they know that their mother’s family has been on U.S. soil since 1711 and fought in all the wars to keep America free? Do they even know what freedom is?
My daughters have been stolen and kept in captivity for sixteen years ó incommunicado with the entire world. They have no knowledge of the rest of the world except by way of Saudi Arabian censored television and the males that are their masters. They are denied the rule of law ó denial of due process. Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state where my daughters are locked up, wrapped up and shut up. This is a cover picture from National Geographic Magazine showing that well known photograph of a young, green eyed Afghan girl on the cover twenty years agoÖnow wearing the dreaded burqa. The caption says, ‘Found’.
And this is a picture of what my daughters are wearing ó basic black from head to toe ó they have no choice. The Saudi religious police can arrest, imprison or kill them for not wearing this garb. This little insert picture of my girls in the white dresses with puff sleeves is seventeen years old. It is the last picture I have of them. Underneath the picture it also says, ‘Found’. Yes, we found them. But they were never lost. We always knew just where they were but couldn’t save them from their destiny which is no different from the destiny of this poor Afghan woman. They also are condemned to a life behind a veil without any rights – a life of silence, submission and servitude. They are treated as Saudi women not American women living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government doesn’t even recognize their American citizenship. They are the property of their father and husband. They can be put to death by these men if the men so choose to dispose of them. It is called ‘honor killing’ and the price of honor for a Saudi woman is quite steep. President Bush has created a special White House liason for Afghan women’s rights but there is no one in the entire U.S. government working for my daughters’ rights as American women locked up in Saudi Arabia. No, I am told that there is nothing the U.S. government can do for them because under Saudi law there father and now there husband have total power and control over them and even Allah, himself cannot help them!!!!
My family and I are also victims of extortion. We have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in attempts to rescue my daughters from Saudi Arabia. This is not to mention the countless other ways my income has been depleted over the years such as lost time from work, airline tickets, huge phone bills, attorneys’ fees, detectives’ fees, years and years of sacrifice of money and time and the life saving of my sick, elderly mother who spent her last dollar to get her beloved granddaughters out of that desert. She never lived to see that day and died in poverty because of this. While Saudi princes, their retainers and their American counter parts lavished themselves in money and riches, my mother and I have lived from hand to mouth all these years. I sacrificed my life to get my daughters back. She sacrificed her life savings and her home in her old age. She begged the Saudis for a crumb and they took delight in emotionally torturing a sick, old grandmother. They forced me to spend money to recover what is manifestly mine, my flesh and blood – my bone of my bone and blood of my blood.
Contrary to the statements appearing in the Saudi owned press, Asharq Al Awsat, listed on the official website of the Saudi Embassy (saudiembassy.net) which recently published a very biased, slanderous article about me concocted by the Saudi government and Gheshayan, these are American women not, “Saudi daughters”. This paper is available in forty two Arab countries. They have now made my plight an issue between the West and the Arab world. Gheshayan and I are on the front page with the headline caption:
THE AMERICAN CONGRESS HOLDS SPECIAL HEARING REGARDING SAUDI WHOSE WIFE CLAIMS HE HAS KIDNAPPED HIS TWO DAUGHTERS
GHESHAYAN FAMILY CLAIMS THAT ALIA AND AISHA WOULD LIKE TO LIVE WITH THEIR FATHER IN RIYADH AND THEY REFUSE TO LIVE WITH THEIR MOTHER
Do they have a choice? Are they free to leave of their own volition? What are the consequences for them if they even mentioned my name or America?
Where was the Gheshayan family and Mr. Gheshayan when I was left to support and care for my infant and toddler baby girls ó these so called ‘Saudi daughters’? Where was the Gheshayan family, Mr. Gheshayan and the Saudi princes when I worked, went to nursing school, got up in the middle of the night, changed diapers, and cared for my babies? I was all alone, abandoned to fend for all of us with full responsibility to come up with our next meal and a roof over our heads.
The article ends with the statement: “Khalid Gheshayan and his family do not understand why American Embassy employees call them every three months and don’t understand that those two daughters are Saudi daughters and that the Embassy should not approach them as Americans living in their country. They should not be stated as missing for several years because they are Saudis not Americans.
The American Embassy doesn’t call them every three months to be sure ó every six years is more like it. However, the Saud government continues to use infantile ploys to place this ordeal and my daughters in the middle of an international chess match. The State Department, in its refusal to back me up and make this a State-to-State issue with the Saudis, has forced me, a private citizen, a mother, to stand up to the Saudi government all alone. I started out by asking my government to help me get my internationally kidnapped children back and now I am fighting the whole Arab world and the United States government to save my adult daughters from a life sentence in Saudi Arabia.
The playing field is far from even and they have the great advantage ó physical possession of my daughters and my unborn grandchild. I found out by reading this Saudi owned newspaper that I will be a grandmother. I have no knowledge of the well being or status of my daughters ó none. And the little bit of information I have gotten over the years has been second hand. National Review Magazine posed the question to Crown Prince Abdullah in April when he was in Crawford with the President. The caption over their little Pound Puppy photo read,”Hey Abdullah. How are the girls?” I wish I knew how they are.
Last June I found out that my daughter, Alia, was married by a telephone call from American Citizens Services, Mr. Bill McCollough. He said, “Ms. Roush, Ambassador Bill Burns (Assistant Secretary Near Eastern Bureau) is unable to meet with you and by the way, I have some news that you are not going to like very much – your oldest daughter was married a few days ago.” I cried out in agony. This was one of my worst nightmares. The State Department waited so long and wouldn’t help us ó wouldn’t hear our pleas and Alia grew up. She went from one male master controller to another. The State Department and American Embassy tell me they have no information about my daughters but they managed to know about this. They manage to know what they want to know when they want to know it but I never know anything. And haven’t for sixteen years. Its like I have been erased from their lives. And now it is extending to the next generation. I won’t be able to be with Alia during the birth of her baby. I won’t hold that baby in my arms and the baby won’t know that I am Alia’s mother, her grandmother. They not only destroyed my mother’s twilight years but took away my motherhood, my children’s mother, my grandmotherhood and my grandchildren’s relationship to their grandmother. The Saudi government and the State Department have wiped us all out.
A daughter’s wedding day is supposed to be one of the most wonderful days for her mother to share with her. Every mother dreams of seeing her little girl grow up and wear that beautiful, white dress ó all aglow with the man she loves. It begins the journey of hope for a happy, blessed, adult, new life for her daughter and the husband. It’s a spiritual rite of passage that contains the seeds of the next generation.
My daughter couldn’t even call me on her wedding day and tell me about it. That family even denied us that. I didn’t know who my beloved Alia married. Who is this man? How old is he? Is he a member of the fanatic religious police? Did her father sell her to someone who will beat her and rape her night after night forcing her to become nothing but a brood mare?
I got no answers for quite awhile and several months passed by before I found out that her father had sold her to his favorite cousin’s son. He kept her in his family so his influence would be a continued presence for her until her death. I know nothing more than this. I am not allowed to have any information about my daughters unless I read about it the Saudi press.
Last Fall I asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get a clear promise from incoming U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, a Bush appointee, that he would work for the release and repatriation of my daughters and allow me to immediately fly to Riyadh to meet with Alia and her new husband along with my Aisha.
I received no response from him but Karen Sasahara at the Saudi Desk yelled at me, “We cannot get you into Saudi Arabia to see your children. You are so negative!” She was referring to the offer Gheshayan made to me at the meeting he had last August with the consul of the U.S. Embassy. He offered me a one hour visit with Aisha. He said I could come to Riyadh and have lunch with him and Aisha at the Marriot Hotel for one hour ó no pictures, of course, and then leave. I could not meet Alia because her husband was now in charge of her. When I told Sasahara that this was not acceptable, she accused me of being negative and uncooperative.
After sixteen years Gheshayan allowed me a five minute telephone call with nineteen year old Aisha last September. She told me, “Hello, Mom. I love you. I love you. Come to Riyadh.”
When a member of the press questioned an officer at American Citizens Services about this impassioned plea from my daughter he was told, “That’s a lie. Her daughter doesn’t speak enough English for her to tell her mother those things.” They also informed the press that the American embassy sees my daughters regularly and makes sure they are well cared for.
Behind closed doors members of the State Department confessed that they haven’t seen my daughters in years. They have no idea where they are or how they are. As for Aisha’s English, her father was watching CNN when the call was made. Maybe she hears enough English from the television. Maybe she remembers that one night we had together when I kept telling her, “I love you. I love you.”
She committed the expression to memory and probably told herself if I ever get another chance to speak to my mother, I will tell her this. Actually at the end of that 120 minute meeting in Riyadh in 1995 as I was packing up their gifts that I brought them, Aisha ran up to me and threw her arms around me and said, “I love you. I love you.” She wouldn’t let me go. She was waiting to tell me that again; however, her father never gave her another chance to speak to me again and I never got to Riyadh. Aisha and I are still waiting. The Saudis may have her body but not her heart and soul. I hope to God he has not sold her into some Saudi’s bed. I was told by an anonymous source in the American Embassy that Gheshayan was very happy he found a rich man for Alia and is now actively looking for another rich one for Aisha. Gheshayan has five other children with his Saudi wife and is tired of dealing with the American embassy over Alia and Aisha.
Now I’d like to briefly describe the experience of what has happened, the role of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, the Saud princes and their agents. I shall attempt to explain the course of events that has happened over the last sixteen years concerning my case and how the ‘special relationship’ between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. government has been the cause that still prevents my American born daughters, ages twenty-three and nineteen, from being returned to me.
LIFE WITH THE CHILDREN
In 1975 while I was a young college student living in San Francisco I met a Saudi Arabian national, Khalid Gheshayan, who was sent to the U.S. by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior and sponsored by the Saudi Educational Mission in Houston, Texas. He was given an ‘A1′ visa which is a diplomatic visa by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. At that time all the Saudi students were given a diplomatic visa in contrast to all other foreign students that were and are issued ‘F1′, student visas. This was the beginning of the preferential treatment he would be receiving from the U.S. government.
Gheshayan came from a prominent Saudi family from the Najd region of the Arabian desert. His grandfather allegedly rode on camels with Ibn Saud and his father worked for Prince Faisal bin Abdul Azziz who became King Faisal. After the King was killed by a deranged relative, Gheshayan’s father came to the U.S. for heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic the same year that Gheshayan and I met ó 1975. Many Saudis come to that facility and they have built a special wing in that hospital for their sole use.
In 1978 Gheshayan’s family returned again to the U.S. for one year ó staying in San Francisco. I met them and knew all of them well. Gheshayan and I were married in 1978. I had graduated from the university receiving a degree in anthropology. He was in and out of school with a lack of scholarship, severe drinking problem and difficulty focusing with personality changes.
His parents weren’t too concerned about any of this. Money came in to him from the Saudi Mission in Houston even if he didn’t attend school. His father and other relatives also gave him money. I thought that if only I could help him stop drinking, he would turn his life around. I became a co-dependent and tried to change him. That was a mistake in judgment I would regret deeply for the rest of my life.
I pleaded with him to stop drinking and took him to an alcoholic inpatient treatment center at a local hospital. It was a twenty-eight day program and he left after a week. He was in and out of facilities for psychiatric and alcoholic problems. Let me read to you a few excerpts from one of the over one hundred pages of medical records from his file:
This is the first Mary’s Help Hospital admission for this 30-year-old Arabic student with a history of alcoholism over the past five years since he came to the U.S. as a student. He has multiple family problems associated with his drinkingÖPatient was treated with detoxification followed by rehabilitationÖHe is not an active participant in the program with active denial and he started to have hallucinations and feelings of persecution and was evaluated by Dr. David Glass, who felt that patient was presenting with a probable paranoid schizophrenia and felt that he would attempt to reach his prior psychiatrist regarding appropriate medications. Prior to the initiations of any neuroleptic medication, the patient felt there was no benefit to the hospitalization and felt he should leave.
Discharge Diagnosis: Acute and chronic alcoholism
Clinical Impression: Patient with a psychotic disorder, most likely paranoid schizophrenia state. He is coherent, but there is some feeling of paranoia and suspiciousness
Patient has been unable to straighten out his life in any organized way in the time that he has spend in this country. He has apparently been on student status, but has not managed to obtain a degree or even pursue a course. He apparently spends most of his time watching television.
After the girls were kidnapped I quickly sent these records to the State Department in Washington, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the Saudi authorities in Riyadh. They were all well aware of the dangerous nature of this man and his control over the girls.
I took care of Alia. I worked and tried to help Gheshayan straighten out his life. He continued to drink and was abusive to me. He got into petty fights and a DUI. I couldn’t take it any longer and asked him leave the house. He was deported by INS three weeks after Alia was born. He had gotten into a car accident, was drunk and assaulted the other driver. His visa was expired and the San Francisco police turned him over to Immigration. He went back to Saudi Arabia, then returned to British Columbia, Canada where he got into more trouble and then entered the U.S. again when Alia was seven months old. Alia and I were peaceful when he was gone. He came back into our lives and quickly destroyed all that.
One night I was holding Alia and he came home drunk and pushed me with the baby in my arms against the wall, pulled the telephone cord out of the wall and stammered out the door to the local bar. I had had enough and made him move out of the house.
He went back to Saudi Arabia and I filed for divorce in 1981. Alia was two years old. I was struggling to make ends meet. He threatened that if I divorced him, he would cause trouble for me. Finally he came back to San Francisco with his father and they begged me to take him back. He said he wasn’t drinking any more and was in business with his father who was in the process of going into the importation business. They came in with their Brooks Brothers suits and I weakened. I took him back. I will regret that for the rest of my life.
I gave birth to Aisha in July 1982. He cut back on his drinking and there were no more problems with fighting and the police but he was never there for us. He left us when Aisha was four months old. Now I had two little girls to take care. I loved the children so much. We were everything to each other. I was glad he was out of our lives and continued to work for my goal of financial stability for the support of my daughters. I enrolled in a three year nursing diploma program at St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in San Francisco. My degree in anthropology wouldn’t bring in enough money to support us and I had to do something to care for the girls.
I went to school, worked, studied and took care of my daughters. Gheshayan was gone ó living in the kingdom in his father’s villa with servants. I was quite frankly glad he was not around. There was always an aura of evil whenever he was present. I couldn’t put my finger on it for a long time ó but it was evil. I was yet to discover just how much evil he could conjure up.
He finally got a job — Saudi style. Some relative made a call for a desk job with many tea breaks. Actually, the whole job was a tea break. But he told me he was working and not drinking and I was glad for him. He started to send me a little money each month and told me he had really changed. I didn’t divorce him because I didn’t have the money for an attorney but was happy that I could just continue with school and take care of the girls. It wasn’t an easy life. I would wake the girls at five in the morning so I could take them to the baby sitter and get to the hospital for clinicals by seven. They were just little children. We would all sleep in the same bed at nightÖcuddling each other. The girls and me. I had one more year of school when Gheshayan offered us trip to the kingdom during the summer break. I had never been there. He made all kinds of promises. The girls and I went in June 1984. He was civil and his family was friendly with me. He took us around the Riyadh area and then to London before we came back to the United States so I could finish school. We were gone for six weeks.
Upon my arrival in San Francisco I suddenly I got very sick just before school started in September 1984. It was Hepatitis. I had gotten it in the kingdom. I was weak and could hardly walk. I had the kids, the school and a job. Gheshayan did not support us. I was extremely ill and finally had to drop out of school just before the semester ended. I was only six months away from graduation. I didn’t know what to do. I needed time and money to recuperate and I needed help with the girls. They were only five and two at that time.
Gheshayan called and asked me to go back to Saudi Arabia. I had nothing, couldn’t care for the girls and couldn’t work. The bills were coming in. Since he had been so decent on the summer trip, I thought he had genuinely changed. That was the duel personality with the soft, sweet aspect that could turn into a seven headed dragon in an instant. The girls and I put our things in storage and went to Saudi Arabia in January 1985. We lived out in the desert ó on a piece of land his father owned. I was isolated. The girls and I clung to each other. Alia couldn’t go to the American school because her father was a Saudi ó against the law. She was supposed to be in Kindergarten. She missed a few months in the travel move and I was concerned for her. I had no choice but put her in an Egyptian school. One day she came home and told me a boy had threatened her with a piece of jagged glass. There was no discipline and order at the school and I became afraid for her. I recuperated and got stronger. We were so outside of everything ó so removed from the American or expat community. We didn’t even have a phone. I had to wear the black abaya and put the shayla over my face. I was forbidden to drive. Taxis were not safe ó women are raped and killed if they dare enter these traps. We were miserable. I wanted to come home. The children wanted to come home.
One night I was talking to Gheshayan about coming home and he suddenly jumped up, ran after me and chased me into the bedroom. He closed the door and threw me on the floor and began to kick me in the chest with his feet. I was screaming for him to stop and Alia was screaming on the other side of the door, “Mommy. Mommy.”
After what seemed an eternity he finally stopped and I couldn’t breathe. I had a pain in my chest and couldn’t raise my arms up without severe pain. I asked him to take me to the hospital. I thought my lungs were punctured. He told me, “I can kill you and throw you out into the desert and no one would even know.”
He was right. I was in the middle of the Arabian desert with a madman and he could do anything he wanted to me. There was no one to help me. Alia clung to me and was crying, “Mommy, Mommy, are you all right? What did you do to my Mommy?” He told me he would take me to the hospital and, “If you tell anyone what happened, I’ll kill you.”
I had a cardiac contusion, fractured breastbone and several broken ribs. I told one of the German doctors working at the hospital that I had been beaten by my husband and the doctor pretended that he didn’t hear me. He couldn’t do anything to help me. He was a foreigner and under Saudi law had no power. He probably saw Saudi women coming into that emergency department all the times with broken bones. In fact, I met an American doctor at the King Fahad hospital who told me he treated many Saudi women after being beaten by their husbands ó very common. Her husband has the right to beat her. It’s the law. Gheshayan had a right to beat me or kill me. As he told me, “You are an American and I am a Saudi. Who are they going to believe?”
I went home with the children and him. I secretly called the American Embassy from a pay phone and they told me, “If he doesn’t sign your exit visa, you will never leave and your children certainly wouldn’t be able to leave with you, even if by some chance you get out.” I was afraid for all of us. The girls and I huddled together. One night we were in the car with him in downtown Riyadh. The girls were in the back seat and I was in the passenger seat covered in black. Alia made a sigh and Gheshayan suddenly turned around and slapped her right across the face. She was six years old. She screamed, “Mommy, help.” I opened the car door, got out and pulled both girls out of the back seat. We started to walk down the dark, dirt streets ó no sidewalks.
I had no money, no passports, no friends, and was in imminent danger of being killed at any time. He pulled up along side of us in the car and said, “Get in. Where do you think you are going?” We got in the back seat and then he turned around and said to Alia, “And she stays here.”
Alia screamed again and said, “Oh no. No.” I held her and Aisha in my arms. We were terrified.
So for the next several months I did what he said and submitted to him. I convinced him to come back to the States and get the scholarship back. He liked that idea but he wouldn’t give me the money to leave. I convinced him to take me to the American embassy and they gave me a repatriation loan to get out. They told me he must sign my exit visa and the exit visa for the girls or we wouldn’t be able to get through airport security. They couldn’t help us. The girls and I left Riyadh in May 1985.
We went to Chicago instead of San Francisco because I needed help from my family. We were so glad to get out of Saudi Arabia but were without any money or resources. I stayed with relatives, filed for divorce and went back to nursing school. After I got on my feet again, I got an apartment and sent for our things from San Francisco. I was one semester from graduating from nursing school and we would be financially all right in just a few short months. I was planning on buying a house after graduation. We were free and started to be happy in our new lives together. We were in my old childhood neighborhood with my family. Alia was attending the same school my mother and I attended. We felt safe at last.
My divorce was final, I was awarded sole custody of my daughters and Gheshayan was out of our lives forever. So we thought.
Just as everything was looking so good, he showed up, hired a private detective to find us, paid an attorney to overturn my divorce and custody degree. He followed me in a rented car, stalked me night and day, tried to get Alia out of her school and called me constantly. I went to the police and tried to get a restraining order and they told me he hadn’t broken any laws and there was nothing they could do.
He convinced me he was in Chicago to stay and only wanted to see the girls. He said, “Pat, I only want to see my children. If I was going to take them, I would have never allowed you to leave Saudi Arabia with them. I just want live here and go back to school. I would never do that to you.” After two months of this, I believed him and allowed him to see the girls on a weekend visit. He took them. It was Super Bowl Sunday – January 26, 1986 the Chicago Bears were at New Orleans. I knew how much he hated living in Saudi Arabia and I believed him. I don’t know why.
I called the State Department ó Office of Overseas Citizens Emergency and they told me, “You will never see your children again. They are gone. There is nothing we can do.”
I called Gheshayan in Arabia and he told me, “Come here and do exactly what I want or you will never see them again. The United States cannot help you now. The embassy cannot help you. Go ahead and get Reagan. Alia and Aisha are never allowed to leave Saudi Arabia again.”
If I had gone back to Saudi Arabia, he would have killed me but first he would have broken every bone in my body and mutilated me. Or he would have locked me up in a room all alone with only enough to keep me barely alive before he finally beat me to death.
One of the punishments in Saudi Arabia for women who disobeys is ‘the woman’s room’.
They lock up a woman in a dark, isolated room and give her only enough food for a slim existence. She is kept there until she goes mad. This was the beginning of my two decade nightmare.
LIFE WITHOUT MY CHILDREN
Two months after the kidnapping I contacted U.S. Senator Alan Dixon’s office in Chicago and began working with his assistant, Sarah Pang. We worked on this tirelessly. Sarah and I never stopped. We talked on the phone four times per day. I didn’t work for one year after he took my girls. I was on the phone begging people to help me. I spent money on detectives and phone calls and airline tickets. My mother helped with the finances. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. I called Riyadh ó the embassy ó they told me there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t get involved. I called Gheshayan and as soon as the family heard my voice on the phone, they hung up. I would hear the sounds of my daughters’ voices in the background and his mother would hang up the phone. Gheshayan told me, “Alia only stays alone in the room and cries for you. We took her to the doctor and he said that she is not allowed to talk to you.”
This was the man diagnosed by the American doctors with paranoid schizophrenia who was now in control of my little girls lives. He was the custodial parent. He ruled them ó this woman hater was the master of two young females. Their fate was in his hands. I don’t know how I survived that or the next sixteen years. Or what is worse how they survived.
Sarah Pang and I were very effective as a team and we got full briefings to Vice President George Bush just four months after the kidnapping. I wrote to every Member of Congress asking for their support and letters came pouring into the Saudi Embassy for the return of the girls. Prince Bandar had only been Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. a short time then and he was quite concerned about this matter.
Senator Dixon brought up my name on the floor of the Senate every chance he got. He asked that arms packages to the Saudis be delayed until the girls were returned. He spoke with Prince Bandar and Bandar told him he would recommend that the girls be brought home.
There was movement in Riyadh by the Saudi Foreign Ministry and they made inquiries to the U.S. Embassy. I would like to read a letter dated June 3, 1986 from Edward S. Walker, Jr, Charge d’Affaires:
Dear Ms. Roush:
Ambassador Cutler is away from Saudi Arabia at present. I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know the current situation regarding the children.
We have been in touch with Senator Dixon’s office and, as you may have learned from the Senator’s staff, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) answered our initial diplomatic note concerning you and your children with a request for more information. We supplied the information concerning your ex-husband’s whereabouts in a follow up diplomatic note on May 19th, and repeated our interest in seeing the children. We will continue to press for your rights and to raise the issue for the children’s custody.
Everyone concerned with your case is heartened by the conversation Senator Dixon had with the Saudi Ambassador in Washington. We hope the Prince’s recommendation to the Saudi authorities will lead to the outcome you desire. We all wanted to hear something before May 28 because the MFA, as practically every other Saudi ministry, has shut down until June 14 when the post-Ramadan Eid holiday is over. We hope that the Saudi authorities will take some action on Prince Bandar’s recommendation immediately after the holiday.
We are all very much aware of your acute distress in the present circumstances. I sincerely hope that when we next contact you it will be to inform you of some positive developments in the case.
Edward S. Walker, Jr.
Charge d’Affaires, a.i.
The Embassy in Riyadh was very excited about what was happening. This was never done before. Bandar recommended that the girls be released and it looked like they were coming home.
The response from the Governor or Riyadh, Prince Salmon, was that I had to go to Saudi Arabia to the Islamic court. I found this out on the day I took the State Nursing Board Examinations. I had miraculously graduated amongst all this trauma. How could I go to Saudi Arabia and fight for my daughters in an Islamic court?
There was no place at the State Department for me to call for counsel except the Saudi Desk. The man heading the Desk at that time was David Ostroff. He kept referring to the Saudis as ‘their clients’. I said what about me and my daughters? What are we? He said, “We must look at this from the Saudis’ point of view.” He advised me that the Islamic courts were very fair and that it was a good idea for me to go there. He sent me a list of Saudi attorneys that could represent me in such a court.
I told him I didn’t have a chance in an Islamic court as an American, Christian woman. I called one of the attorneys on the list, Saleh Hejeilan, for advise. I didn’t know his background. He told me he was in the ‘court’ of Prince Salman and that he would do this ‘for humanitarian reasons’. He didn’t want any money but just wanted to help. I later called the consul general of the Embassy who informed me Hejeilan likes to get involved with things concerning the embassy and is very well connected. His brother is the Minister of Health. Hejeilan later ‘defended’ the two British nurses who were accused of murdering an Australian nurse in the kingdom. He is the dealmaker ó par excellence. He would become my nemesis along with Bandar and Salman.
Hejeilan knew about all the action in Washington concerning my case. He knew about the Congressional interest and the arms packages, etc. He and Salman were looking for a way to solve this and satisfy the Gheshayan family. Finally, they thought of a way. He proposed that the girls be allowed to attend boarding school in London since they were English speakers. That way they would be out of Saudi jurisdiction and we could easily get the children from England. This was an easy and doable solution to this quite simple problem. Everyone would be happy. Maybe not Gheshayan.
He wanted to represent the Embassy and proposed a meeting to be held in Prince Salman’s office. He requested that U.S. Ambassador Walter Cutler be present at this meeting to finalize the arrangements for the sending of the girls to London. The others set to attend were Prince Salman, Gheshayan and of course, Hejeilan. It would be a simple agreement. Everything was in place. I was in constant communication with Edward Walker. We spoke several times per week. We were all very excited about getting the girls back.
Then in October 1986 I called Walker to make sure everything was in place and he told me, “Pat, we telexed Washington twice this week and they will not allow the Ambassador to go into that meeting.” I said, “What do you mean? Why not?” He repeated that he didn’t know why. I told him to tell Ambassador Cutler not to tell the Saudis (Hejeilan) and that I would talk to Senator Dixon as soon as possible and get back to him. Please don’t tell Hejeilan. He promised he would tell Cutler.
It was a Saturday and I called Sarah Pang at home. We tried to find Dixon on the golf course. About an hour later, Walker called me back. Cutler had told Hejeilan. That was it! It was finished! A few days later Hejeilan called me and told me, “Your State Department won’t help you. You own government doesn’t want you. You will see your children if and when WE decide.”
He proceeded to bring a video crew into Gheshayan’s villa and invite the Consul General Richard LaRoche of the American Embassy who was accompanied by the Syrian foreign service national that worked for the Embassy, Mazen Shaban. Mr. LaRoche called me after the taping and said that Hejeilan tried to get the girls to say negative things about their mother and the United States. The girls began to cry and wouldn’t cooperate and then Gheshayan took them into the back room and scared them. When they came back, they did as they were told. The girls looked drugged and Aisha who was four was taught to say that Gheshayan’s mother was her mother. Alia said, “My Mommy doesn’t love me or my sister. I am not going anywhere without my Daddy.” Of course, Gheshayan was sitting right beside her. I was sent a copy of this tape and it has caused me a great deal of pain for many years. It is not unlike the tapes made by Terry Anderson or other hostages except these were little girls.
I have included for the record copies of several unclassified cables obtained from my FOIA. These include the cables that were sent to the Embassy in Riyadh from the State Department in October 1986 ordering them not to go into that meeting as well as inquiries from the Embassy to the State Department as to their position in this matter. I would like to read a few excerpts:
From American Embassy-Riyadh
To Sec State-Washington
Embassy appreciates prompt response to Riyadh Reftel. We will of course adhere to the guidance provided. We would like, however, to seek clarification of a few points.
First of all, there is no judicial proceeding underway of anticipated in the case of Patricia Roush and her former husband Al-Gheshayan. We understand that the lawyer, Salah Al-Hejeilan, while not representing Mrs. Roush, has agreed to take up the case on humanitarian grounds to explore the possibility of an out of court settlement in Mrs. Roush’s favor. It is the view of legal experts here that if the case were taken to court under Sharia law it would be most unlikely that a resolution could be reached to the mother’s satisfaction. Accordingly, we have been trying to work through direct contact with key Saudi officials and the good offices of Mr. Al-Hejeilan to seek an out of court-accommodation whereby the children would be reunited with their mother. It was in this capacity that Saleh Al-Hejeilan had planned to represent our interests.
This brings us to the second point for clarification. It had been our impression and, indeed, we had been operating on the assumption that it was our duty to protect the welfare of U.S. citizens. As the Department is aware, Mrs. Roush’s former husband allegedly abducted the two children from the United States and a felony warrant was issued for his arrest. He is not a U.S. citizen and according to official documents provided to us by Mrs. Roush he has a long history of alcoholism, psychiatric problems, criminal activity and failure at U.S. educational institutions. Under the circumstances we felt that the interests of Mrs. Roush and her children were our primary concern, and that it was our responsibility to do whatever we could, regardless of the odds against us, to help her regain custody of her two children.
According to the guidance in State Reftel, we gather that we are enjoined from taking the posture we had adopted in favor of reunification of the children with their mother and must remain neutral between parents regardless of their citizenship and previous records. If our understanding is correct, then we must immediately inform Mrs. Roush and Saleh Al-Hejeilan that we must remain impartial under instructions from the Department.
We would appreciate any further guidance CA, H, and L/M might have in these matters.
From: American Embassy Riyadh
To: Sec State Wash DC
The attorney who is willing to assist Mrs. Roush, Salah Al-Hejeilan, will shortly open negotiations with Al-Gheshayan to reach an agreement providing for the shared custody of the Al-Gheshayan children. He considers it essential to the success of these negotiation that he represent the embassy rather than Mrs. Roush. To demonstrate this, he has requested appointment by simply exchange of letters as ‘honorary legal advisor’ to the embassy.
Al-Hejeilan has asked for an appointment of indefinite duration, terminable upon notice by either party, and not limited to the Al-Gheshayan case. Al-Hejejilan would provide legal advice gratis. The embassy, in return, would agree not to make unreasonable demands for service, and would permit Al-Hejejilan to describe himself as legal advisor to the embassy for purposes of professional listing. Al-Hejeilan has already entered into an agreement on similar terms with the British ambassador.
Al-Hejeilan is a noted local attorney whose services could benefit the embassy greatly in the future. We had previously sought to put a Saudi attorney on retainer to assist in maters like the Roush case but could not budget the fees. This therefore, is an ideal arrangement from our perspective.
The embassy requests the Department’s concurrence in the appointment of Salah Al-Hejeilan as ‘honorary legal advisor’ to the embassy. In view of the critical posture of the Al-Gheshayan case. The Department’s quickest response would be appreciated.
But the State Department in Washington was not interested in the psychiatric records of Gheshayan, the dangerous position the girls were placed in, the interest of Congress, the work of Edward S. Walker, Jr., DCM of the Embassy and the others at the Embassy that were trying to get the girls out as quickly as possible before it was too late. Nor were they interested in the urgency of getting the girls away from a paranoid schizophrenic before he harmed these girls. The embassy stated, “we had been operating on the assumption that it was our duty to protect the welfare of U.S. citizens” and realized the situation on the ground in the country with the endangered children. The Department was interested solely in the ‘legality’ of the matter and responded with the following cable to the Embassy:
Fm Secstate WashDC
To Am embassy Riyadh Immediate
1. Department is of the view that it is improper to uses an attorney on behalf of the USG in Judicial proceedings in which the USG is not a party to the suit. If Salah Al-Hejeilan should represent Mrs. Patricia Roush in legal proceedings to determine the custody of her two children, Alia and Aisha Al Gheshayan, Dept would have no objection to him pointing out that the Embassy has a strong interest in resolving the case. But Embassy must be aware that Salah Al-Hejeilan cannot represent himself as the Embassy’s attorney in this private legal matter.
2. Conoff may wish to refer to 7 fam 143 which sets forth, in general terms, the role of Conoffs in child custody cases. Of particular significance is the last sentence which states, “At all times, consular officers must attempt to maintain impartiality, regardless of the perceived relative merits of the case, and should avoid attempting to influence either parent in a child lcustody case.”
3. With respect to Al-Hejeilan’s appointment as the embassy legal advisor, there is no such formal title as “embassy legal advisor” and we advise against entering into an agreement where U.S. would permit an attorney to use such a title. (FYI: The title is often used informally by attorneys whom we hire to provide legal advice to embassies and Dept does not police such informal use.) Embassy should be aware that foreign attorneys can be hired and compensated for legal guidance for specific cases and not put on retainer. ‘Where there is recurring need for legal counsel, foreign attorneys are paid on hourly basis. If embassy is interested in hiring an attorney, we strongly urge you to consult with Dept (L/M) for parameters on the legal appointment’
This stance by the Department was firm despite several other cables from the embassy asking for the ability to go ahead with the proposal made by Hejeilan. Again, the State Department said, “No.”
To AmEmbassy-Riyadh Immediate
ÖUnder no circumstance would the Department advocate the taking of sides in a child custody dispute, regardless of the nationality of the parents, nor would we be in favor of conoffs judging the merits of any child custody dispute (see 7 Fam 181). Should embassy desire us to reiterate above to Ms. Roush, we would be happy to do so.
Embassy has remarked in Reftel (A) that the attorney, Salah AlHejeilan, had requested appointment as legal advisor to the embassy to : “explore the possibility of an out-of-court settlement in Mrs. Roush’s favor.” Dept wishes to reiterate that Al-Hejeilan may not represent the embassy in any fashion. Whether formally or informally, in the child custody cases of Alia and Aisha Al-Gheshayan. To Reiterate point set forth in Reftel(B), we would have no objection to Mr. AlHejeilan informing appropriate parties that the embassy has a strong interest in resolving the case. . . Indeed in all child custody cases, a consular officer’s primary interest is in the protection and the welfare of the children, while recognizing the implicit legal limitations.
FYI: Embassy may be assured that this cable represents the views of CA,L/M and H.
“Indeed in all child custody cases, a consular officer’s primary interest is in the protection and the welfare of the children, while recognizing the implicit legal limitations.” The State Department in Washington sent the Embassy direct quotes from the policy book to stop the Embassy from saving two little girls from a life of misery. Some bureaucrat from consular affairs or the legal department in Washington sent this order to the people of the embassy who were trying to negotiate for the lives of my children. They tied their hands and caused the Saudis to realize that the U.S. government did not care enough about these kids to send their ambassador into a meeting to make the agreement for the girls to leave. Some nameless, faceless government servant destroyed the lives of my little daughters. I don’t even know the name of this person. Do they know what they did? Do they care? How many more lives have they destroyed through this policy. This legality. When will the State Department stop making draconian policy decisions and realize that they are dealing with human lives?
The embassy realized who Hejeilan was and the significant role he could play in this matter. They had wanted a legal advisor and were told there were no funds. Now Hejeilan appeared in my case and wanted to represent the embassy without payment. The British Embassy had this arrangement with him. Just as Consul General Richard LaRoche had told me, Hejeilan was connected and connected to the man who could get the girls out ó Prince Salman, one of the Sudari Seven — powerful sons of Ibn Saud. He wanted to deal and the State Department said — no, it is not legal. But the contraction is they are saying in the cables “their primary interest is in the protection and the welfare of the children” knowing full well that in ordering the embassy to pull back they have just signed these girls’ death certificates — a living death — a life sentence in Saudi Arabia.
The paradoxical irony is that in February 1995 I was told by Gretchen Welch, Consul General, U.S. Embassy-Riyadh, “Saleh Al-Hejeilan, is the attorney for the embassy and handles all of our legal matters in the kingdom.” But in 1986 when the lives of my innocent daughters were at stake, the embassy was ordered to stay away from Hejeilan. He could not be the attorney for the embassy as he suggested and negotiate an out of court deal for my daughters to leave Saudi Arabia.
THE NEXT FIFTEEN YEARS
That was the first year without my daughters. After that betrayal and the tape sent by Hejeilan the tauntings by Hejeilan continued. He took great glee in putting me on a string and dangling the carrot of my daughters in front of me. He did this to my elderly mother through telephone calls. He even allowed me to speak to my daughters once shortly after January 1987. The girls were told to tell me they hated me. Aisha was four and Alia was eight. I could hear Gheshayan in the background telling them to say evil things to me. These were not the words of my daughters but of a twisted, sick mind. Hejeilan orchestrated this phone conversation and taped it and even bragged about it. This would begin a long history of Hejeilan working for Prince Salman to emotionally and psychologically torture me. One time he told me, “You are being punished for going to the press and the politicians for help.” He owns property not far from Washington in Great Falls, VA and comes here each year around August-September. He goes to Walter Reed Hospital each year for a full physical examination. I thought that facility was reserved for U.S. military and their families. But of course, it wouldn’t be the first time the Saudis were able to bend the rules nor the first or last time the U.S. government would bend the rules for them.
In 1987 I worked very hard with Senator Dixon and Sarah Pang to try to reverse the decisions made by the State Department and Saudi government in 1986. It was over as far and they were all concerned. But that didn’t stop me from trying. I was nearly out of my mind by this time but kept pushing forward. Senator Dixon and I had our first press conference in Washington on the first anniversary of the kidnapping. He met with several members of the Saudi Embassy including Rehab Mahsoud who is number two there now. The Saudi Embassy’s long time attorney, Fred Dutton, was also there as was Undersecretary of State Ed Derwinski, an old friend of Dixon’s from Illinois politics.
Dixon asked them to please cooperate and return the girls on a humanitarian basis between friends. He brought up Gheshayan’s background. The Saudis and Dutton told the senator that even if Gheshayan was found to be unfit as a father (very unlikely in Saudi society) the girls would never, never to allowed to come back to their mother. They would be given to another male member of their family. They belonged to that family. Case closed. Dixon was furious. He told them he would bring this matter up every chance that he could in the U.S. Senate and whenever there was a forum or deal concerning the Saudis, he would shine a light on this matter. The Saudis stormed out and Alan Dixon was at war with them. He brought the case up all the time and tried hard for two years – arms packages, press conferences, floor of the U.S. Senate. He co-sponsored the signing of the Hague Treaty in 1987 because of my situation.
I told Sarah we needed to make this crime a federal felony offense and extradite these criminals back to the U.S. to stand trial. We needed to send a strong message to foreign countries that the United States would not stand by and allow its children to be taken away by foreign nationals. She spoke to Dixon and he started working on what would become the International Parental Kidnapping Act. I also told Sarah that we needed a special office at the State Department that we could turn to for help. In October 1987 Senator Dixon and I and a few other parents met at the State Department. They were forced to open the Office of Children’s Issues. A new U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia was confirmed, Hume Horan, an Arab scholar and foreign service diplomat who spoke fluent Arabic. Dixon asked to meet with him before he flew to Riyadh. He was most agreeable to try to help within the constraints placed upon him by the Department. He even called me on Christmas Day 1987 and said he was watching the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street” and thought about me and my girls. Just wanted to wish me a ‘Merry Christmas’.
The Sauds continued to rebuff any efforts and I was beyond grief. Congresswoman Lynn Martin of Rockford, Illinois took up my cause and hand delivered several letters from me to George Bush over the years. He didn’t want to get involved. Senator Dixon’s office began a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to King Fahad asking for the girls to be released. It was signed by fifty four U.S. Senators and delivered to the King’s palace in March 1988. This was the same time that the U.S. found out that the Saudis had clandestinely purchased silkworm missiles from China a few years before. Human Horan was sent in to confront them on this matter and they shortly after that asked him to leave, non persona gratis.
I would like to read a short excerpt from The Washington Post: Marriage of Convenience by David Ottaway and Robert Kaiser that explains this event:
A Secret Deal
Secrecy is a regular feature of Saudi-American interactions. It was an important part of the worst moment in the relationship between the 1973 oil embargo and Sept. 11. Once again, Bandar was the central actor. Though the Saudis were easily America’s biggest customer for armaments, they resented the process they had to go through to acquire the most advanced U.S. systems. Twice they survived showdown votes in Congress when friends of Israel opposed the sale of advanced aircraft to them. And on other occasions administrations had to evade congressional opposition to sell weapons to Riyadh. The United States refused to sell some kinds of advanced weapons to the Saudis, including missiles. So the Saudis bought from other countries, too, including Britain, France and — in one deal that caught the United States by surprise — China. In secret talks that began in China in 1985, Bandar negotiated a billion-dollar purchase of Chinese CSS2-class missiles with a range of about 1,500 miles, or enough to reach Turkey and Israel from Saudi territory. The United States — and Israel — failed to discover what was going on for two years. When intelligence agencies in both countries realized what had happened, they were livid.
The State Department instructed Hume Horan, the recently arrived U.S. ambassador in Riyadh, to see King Fahd in March 1988 to deliver a stern message expressing “surprise and disapproval of this action,” as Horan recalled in an interview. Horan had served as the No. 2 man in the embassy from 1972 to 1977. He had wide-ranging contacts in Saudi society. He was known in the foreign service as America’s best Arabic linguist and as a scholarly student of the Arab world. He was the son of an Iranian aristocrat who had been Iran’s foreign minister and an American mother, a fact known to the Saudis, who have never liked the Iranians.
Horan said he knew the king would be offended by the verbal spanking he had been ordered to deliver, so he called Washington to confirm that officials there understood the import of their instructions. Yes, he was told — deliver the message. He did so. When he returned to the embassy, he found a new telegram from Washington revoking his previous instructions — which he had just carried out. “My goose was cooked,” he recalled.
Bandar had persuaded senior officials of the Reagan administration not to deliver an official protest to Fahd. Bandar reassured the Americans that the missiles would be deployed in a way that made clear they were no threat to Israel. They had a conventional warhead and were intended to deter Iraq and Iran, Saudi’s traditionally hostile neighbor, and would be used only in retaliation, the Saudis said.
The administration sent Philip Habib, a retired undersecretary of state then serving as a special Mideast peace envoy, to Riyadh to try to mend fences with Fahd. Habib brought Horan to his meeting with the king, a diplomatic mission that has never previously been described.
Fahd was clearly furious with the ambassador, Horan recounted, and asked Habib, in front of him, to have Horan replaced. When Habib raised the issue of the missiles, the king said angrily that he had told Horan “to keep his nose out of it.” He complained to Habib about Horan’s Iranian ancestry.
The Reagan administration decided to quickly replace Horan by bringing back his predecessor, Cutler, also a foreign service professional, but not an Arabic speaker and scholar like Horan. The decision was so quick that even before Horan could leave the country, the State Department asked him to seek Saudi approval for Cutler’s reappointment as ambassador. This was a mission that humiliated Horan, as he makes clear nearly 14 years later. “They made us kowtow,” he said. Successfully forcing the Americans to replace their ambassador gave the Saudis a palpable psychological edge in their dealings with the United States. “The American ambassador’s influence ended in Riyadh,” Horan said. Henceforth, Bandar dominated the relationship in Washington.
“Let’s face it,” said Edward S. Walker Jr., former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, “we got a lot of money out of Saudi Arabia.”
Thus began a new era in the ‘special relationship’ whereby the Saudis dictated what type of ambassador they wanted and no ambassador since Hume Horan has been an Arabic speaker. Now the Saudis insist that all ambassadors are political appointees from the administration. They don’t want to deal with these mere foreign service types. They want a direct line to the president. And Bandar is unleashed in Washington. It is purported that he is allotted something like $70,000,000 per year for lobbying.
So Hume Horan was out and the Saudis wanted Walter Cutler back for a second time. But why? I asked Senator Dixon to place an objection on the confirmation of Cutler. He did so. In the meantine, my old friend, Hejeilan, showed up once again in my life. He knew about the objection of Cutler by Dixon so he asked me to meet him in New York at his suite at the Waldorf Astoria. He then told me, “You know, Mrs. Roush, Prince Salman likes Walter Cutler very much and if Mr. Cutler is back in Riyadh, things could go very well for you. I would sponsor you into the kingdom and arrange to accompany you to all the important princes. Things would look very favorable for you concerning your daughters. But Walter Cutler must be in Riyadh.”
After that meeting I flew to Washington to meet with Walter Cutler and Assistant Secretary of State Joan Clark. Several other members of the State Department were also in attendance. I told them about Hejeilan’s new offer and asked Cutler if the objection were removed from his confirmation, and I was allowed into Saudi Arabia, would he go with me to the Saudi princes and ask them for the release of my daughters. He immediately turned to Joan Clark and asked, “Is this legal?” She assured him that it would be legal and I told him I wanted his assurances on this. He said yes, he would do it, if allowed back as ambassador.
Cutler then went to Dixon’s office and asked Dixon to release the objection. He said, “I can’t do anything for Pat Roush unless I am in the country.” Dixon shook his hand and Cutler arrived in Riyadh in August 1988. He then never, never returned any of my calls, nor the calls of Senator Dixon. And Hejeilan then totally backed out of any promises he made to me. He told the embassy he wouldn’t sponsor me into the kingdom and that was it.
Cutler got what he wanted. The State Department got what they wanted and the Saudis got what they wanted and I was betrayed and duped again by this very special relationship.
The Washington Post states:
Americans who have worked with the Saudis in official capacities often remain connected to them when they leave public office, from former president George H.W. Bush, who has given speeches for cash in Saudi Arabia since leaving office, to many previous ambassadors and military officers stationed in the kingdom. In some cases, these connections have been lucrative. Walter Cutler, who served two tours as the U.S. ambassador in Saudi Arabia, now runs Meridian International Center in Washington, an organization that promotes international understanding through education and exchanges. Saudi donors have been “very supportive” of the center, Cutler said. Walker, the former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, is president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, which promotes understanding with the Arab world. Its board chairman is former senator Wyche Fowler, ambassador to Riyadh in the second Clinton administration. Saudi contributions covered $200,000 of the institute’s $1.5 million budget last year, Walker said.
Bandar has told associates that he makes a point of staying close to officials who have worked with Saudi Arabia after they leave government service. “If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office,” Bandar once observed, according to a knowledgeable source, “you’d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.”
A perfect example of this would be Wyche Fowler, Jr. who succeeded Raymond Mabus as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1996. I will discuss this matter in a short time.
But first let’s go back to October 1988. After this last experience I was totally exhausted and spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically drained. I could hardly go on. I asked the State Department for at least a visit with my daughters. I have not seen them for almost three years.
They sent a letter to the Saudi embassy and the Saudi response was, “Öit was not in the best interest of the children to see their mother.” By this time Gheshayan had remarried, had another child with his Saudi wife, and forced my Christian daughters to convert to Islam.
As sited from another unclassified cable, “Alia has become a very good moslem. She loves to study the Koran and pray. He is taking her to Mekkah to perform Umra.” Gheshayan hadn’t changed though. I had asked an associate who was on a business trip to Saudi Arabia to try to arrange to see my daughters through the embassy. This of course, was denied but he did meet with Gheshayan and an embassy consular officer. During this meeting Gheshayn became agitated and said, “Öthe meddling into his private life had to stop. He said if it didn’t, he would send someone to kill Ms. Roush.” This is taken as a direct quote from an unclassified cable ó October 86. (Copies are submitted for the record)
After that threat and the refusal of the Saudi Embassy to issue me a visa to visit my daughters, I became very distraught. I had nowhere to turn. I moved back to California. I hired teams to covertly take the children out of Saudi Arabia but they failed and lost all my money and the life savings of my mother.
Then the invasion of Kuwait happened. I called the Embassy and they said my daughters were not in the least bit of jeopardy. Riyadh was safe. I was hearing the weather report in Riyadh every night on the news and seeing big holes where scud missiles were landing where my children lived, people were putting gas masks on and we sent the biggest deployment of troops since WWII and the embassy told me my daughters were safe. They did nothing to even help me get into Saudi Arabia to see them. We were defending the Saudis from Iraq, Americans were being killed and yet the State Department told me I could not see my American children.
I lived in absolute hell for the next few years. I had no contact with my daughters and no one saw them. I never had a photograph or a telephone call. Finally in September 1994 I called the State Department and told them I absolutely had to see my daughters. This was not human. It had been ten years.
There was a newly appointed U.S. Ambassador ó Raymond Mabus ó former governor of Mississippi and political appointee of the Clinton administration. He became very interested in my case and went back to Salman to ask that I be granted a visit with my daughters. They called Gheshayan into Salman’s office and according to the consular office at the embassy, he was extremely agitated and excited. He would not sign the non objection letter allowing me to enter the kingdom until Salman leaned on him quite hard. I was given a two month visa signed by Bandar and was told that I would be able to see my daughters every day for as long as I wished. When in fact I was able to see my daughters for a total of 120 minutes and I was in Saudi Arabia for twenty one days.
Of course, Hejeilan came back into the picture. He organized the whole thing like a Cecil B. DeMille production. I was escorted to the Intercontinental Hotel by four members of the American Embassy. Someone from Hejeilan’s office was present. Gheshayan and his brother brought the girls. They both searched the room for cameras and took my four cameras away. I was told that if I ever took a picture of them, I would never be able to see them again. After a long protest by me to see the girls without Gheshayan and his brother in the room with us, they left in the room and stood guard right outside the small room off the lobby of the hotel. Mazen Shaban, the Syrian FSN from the American embassy who was present for the Hejeilan taping years before translated for Aisha.
The girls were dressed in black from head to toe. Where were my little girls? I didn’t recognize them. They were thirteen and sixteen. The last time I saw them was ten years before when they were three and seven. The Consul General brought them into the room and I just threw my arms around them and kissed them and kept telling them I loved them. At first they just stood there with tears running down their faces like little toy soldiers taught not to show emotion. Little did I know that even though I was told I would see them everyday, the girls were told that this would be the one and only time they would see me. These girls were kidnapped from their mother, forced to stay in this desert with a man and family they feared, and then after ten years are told that they will be allowed to see the mother that they were torn away from, but only for two hours.
Then they will never see their mother again.
This is not even human. Even Saudi princes have mothers. Even the State Department legal officers have mothers. I sat on the sofa with Alia on my left and Aisha on my right. Mazen sat on a chair to the left. He translated everything I said into Arabic. I told them I had been trying to get them out from the beginning. Alia said, “My father told us that you left us here.”
I told her, “But you know that is not true. You remember what happened, Alia. He took you from me and he almost killed me. You remember.” She nodded her head, yes.
“But how can we leave? I don’t have a passport and my father will never let us leave?”
“Alia, I am working with the American ambassador and I will get you out. Don’t worry. You will get out of here. I will never stop until you are free.”
She was not convinced that I could do that but she wanted to leave. “They never let me do anything. They watch me all the time,”she said. “No one comes to the house unless they are family.”
Then suddenly Gheshayan’s brother unexpectedly walked into the room. Alia’s dark eyes flashed and her muscles tensed as she stared at her uncle. He sat down and tried to make conversation with me. The girls gazed downward and made no eye contact with him. A posture of submission took over them. When he left, I placed a small silver bracelet with garnets (Navajo jewelry that was one of my favorite pieces) on Aisha’s wrist. “Wear this and remember me.”
The girls had told their father they wanted me to bring them levi jeans from the United States and I brought them levi 501s and of course, a photo album with our pictures together for them to keep. I hoped that their father would not take it away from them. I gave Alia a copy of her favorite childhood song, ‘Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love You Tomorrow. It’s only A Day Away.’
Then Gheshayan’s brother came back in and said it was late and they had to leave. I told the girls I would see them tomorrow. Aisha threw her arms around my waist and wouldn’t let me go ó “I love you. I love you. Bukra, inshallah.” (I will see you tomorrow, God willing.) Alia, was trying to be brave with no tears but at the last minute, she broke down and said, “Mamma. Mamma. Don’t leave us here. Mamma take us with you. They said we will never see you again. No, Mamma.”
I said it wasn’t true and I had an order from the emir that I could see them everyday. Don’t worry. I would see them tomorrow. I would have the American embassy call their father for the time and place. Don’t worry, Alia.
They then placed the black veils over their faces and walked out into the lobby of the hotel. I stood at the doorway and blew them kisses. My last image of them is Aisha standing in that lobby with that black abaya around her little body and the black shayla over her face waving to me while I blew her a kiss. Alia was trying to be brave, as usual, and she wouldn’t look back but couldn’t help it and at the end, she suddenly turned around to catch one last look at her mother. She waved at me under the veil. I never saw them again.
I didn’t sleep that night and went to the American Embassy early the next morning. Gheshayan called while I was there He yelled at the officer and said I could not see them again because I talked about the United States with the girls. It was impossible for me to see them again.
Ray Mabus was not in Riyadh. He was traveling about the kingdom on official business. I was stuck in the Sheraton for twenty-one days. I went to the Governor’s Office accompanied by Mazen Shaban and Myles Webber, consular officer. This is Prince Salman, Hejeilan’s boss. He refused to see me. Instead the Deputy Governor Bolead who knew this whole affair very well, met with us. Mazen clued me in, “Pat, ask for everything you want now. Don’t delay. Now is your chance.”
With Mazen and Myles on each side of me I sat in this huge majlis, sipping Arabic coffee with the scent of incense everywhere. I asked this servant of Salman for the release of my daughters. I asked that they be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with me.
He said, “No. It is not possible.”
We then left and went outside the enormous wooden doors of the palace into the concrete parking lot known by the Americans and expats as ‘headchoppers square. This is where the public executions take place every Friday. You can see the bullet holes and places on the ground where the blood has been cleaned up. I went back to the Sheraton.
Ray Mabus had a meeting arranged with Gheshayan at Prince Salman’s office. He brought the deputy chief of the mission and the chief political officer with him. Gheshayan kept them waiting for over one hour. He walked in and immediately insulted Mabus. Mabus asked that the girls be allowed to leave with me. He said he would give Gheshayan his word as U.S. ambassador that the girls could return back to Saudi Arabia. He would arrange for all international warrants for Gheshayan to be dropped. He would issue visas for him and his family to enter the United States anytime and come up with a document where this could all be settled quite amicably. Gheshayan called Mabus a liar and insulted him further. He walked out of the meeting.
Ray Mabus called me after the meeting. He said, “Gheshayan blames you for everything, Pat. He said it is all your fault. Pat, this guy is the meanest man in the world. I offered him a good deal and he called me a liar. I gave him my word.”
I told Mabus I was leaving. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was there almost one month. Ray Mabus told me, “Don’t worry, Pat. I will do everything I can to get your little girls out of Saudi Arabia. I will go to all the major Saudi princes until I get the answer we want. Just remember that this embassy cares about you and your girls. Go home and rest easy now. I will get your daughters back for you.”
He kept his word. He did everything he said he would do. He went to many of the most powerful Saudi princes including: Minister of Foreign Affairs: Prince Saud bin Faisal; Minister of the Interior: Prince Naif bin Abdullah Azziz; Governor of Riyadh: Prince Salman bin Abdullah Azziz; Saudi Ambassador to the United States: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Crown Prince Abdullah.
He brought the matter up at every meeting with these princes. They were not opposed to the idea of the return of my daughters when it was presented with authority. Mabus told me he had met with Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin Faisal and Faisal requested a diplomatic note on this matter. Mabus had that note delivered to the prince’s office by 5 p.m. that same night. He did this with authority and got results.
Prince Saud sent Mabus a diplomatic note in response. It stated that the daughters of Patricia Roush could go to the United States to visit their mother in the summer of 1996. This was the first time we had something in writing from the Saudis. I was thrilled with this news.
Mabus called me one day and said, “Pat, I have some good news for you. I went to see Saud al Faisal yesterday and I asked him for an update about your case. And he said that Prince Naif is bringing her husband in. He said we are going to convince him of this. He said you have made a good proposal, a genuine proposal and we’re trying to implement it. We think this is the way to go. He said I brought it up with Prince Naif and he is calling Gheshayan in to take this proposal. It should this week and we will let you know.”
In another call Ray Mabus told me: “I had a long talk with Bandar about your case. He said this is a very reasonable thing. Why won’t this guy do it? And then I told him that Barbara Walters is about to do this thing. And he said, ‘I know that too. I was at a party with Barbara Walters and she said they were going to do it.’ He said this is a very reasonable thing.”
Unfortunately, shortly after that conversation Barbara Walters had with Bandar concerning the airing of my interview with her, 20/20 dropped the piece altogether. Bandar’s arms are long.
Concerning Prince Naif who is the Minister of the Interior and in control of the Saudi secret police, Ray Mabus got his absolute support as he relayed to me in another telephone conversation:
“I have seen the Minister of the Interior and he is aware of this. I just sent a cable down. He said, ‘I’m very hopeful that we are going to be able work something out. It seems we have a very reasonable solution.’ The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are really working together on this. Saud al Faisal seems to be very serious and the Minister of the Interior knew all about it. I went back. I had two meetings there. And I had custody matters for him and he’s blown me off on every one of them but not this one. He said we are not going to do that. ‘This one,” he said, ‘this one we are going to try to work this one out.’I told him, I said this one is personal. I want you to do this one for me. This is it.”
I asked Mabus to hold the visas to the United States of the entire Gheshayan family. He did this and it was a very effective weapon to use to pressure them to release my daughters. The family was livid. Gheshayan was on everyone’s blacklist. This is an important family with access to the crown prince and they come to the United States often for a variety of reasons from Disneyland to military missions to health care. They were all angry at Gheshayan for causing them this trouble with the American Embassy.
While this was going on it was discovered that Gheshayan’s mother and brother (the same one that accompanied his to the hotel that night I saw my daughters) had squeezed through this visa hold and entered the United States. Mabus called me and told me was sorry that this oversight had happened and that he gave strict orders that the next time someone in the visa section allows a mistake like this to happen and someone else with the name Gheshayan gets into the United States, they will be fired.
At first the embassy was questioning Mabus’ authority to do this. They had never been able to fight back before and they weren’t used to it. Mabus told me, “I told them to do it because the ambassador said so. That’s why.”
And they loved it. For the first time these consular employees had leverage and it felt good. I was totally heartened by all this. I couldn’t believe it was happening. It appeared that my daughters would be released imminently Mabus was heartened and the embassy was heartened. Mabus told me that he had the full blessing of the State Department to do this. They certainly did not stop him. But he was a political appointee and used his independence to get results. He was a hero. I believe the Saudis respected him, also. He was certainly not a “yes” man and the Saudis can appreciate that.
The situation was heating up and two important players in the Gheshayan family were asking for visas. One was a lieutenant colonel in the Saudi Air Force who wanted to lead a training mission into the United States and the other was a retired general in the Saudi National Guard which is controlled by the crown prince. The general had cancer and wanted to go to Houston for treatment. Mabus said no to both of them.
The general went to the crown prince for assistance. Mabus was called in. The general, crown prince and Ray Mabus were all sitting there. Mabus told me:
“The crown prince said here he is. He needs a visa . He has cancer and if he doesn’t get to go, he will die. And I said well, I’ll be happy to give him a visa but let me tell you why I held it up. And I went through this thing. And the crown prince is an interesting guy because the thing that matters to him most is honor and justice. I looked at him and I said, I met this guy, Khalid Gheshayan and he was rude to me. And now he will not see our people and he will not let the mother see these daughters even for the summer. And I said so I am stopping the whole family from traveling. And the crown prince said you did exactly right. If this guy is rude to women, you did exactly right. He called Abdul Mohsen Al-Tuajery, who is his top aid over and talked to him. He appointed him to help get this done. I need your help your royal highness to get Khalid Gheshayan to sign these papers allowing the girls to go to their mother. And he said I will help you do this.”
It was a quid pro quo. Mabus saved the life of one of the crown prince’s generals in exchange for the freedom of my daughters. It was finished — a done deal. But it wasn’t done yet. Mabus told me he was going to resign as ambassador for personal reasons. I was in agony. I knew what would happen. Mabus reassured me and said, “Pat, don’t worry. I have made believers out of these guys at the embassy. I will fully brief the incoming ambassador who is also a political appointee. Nothing is going to happen. We are at the finish line. I wish I could be here when they come home, but I have to go back to Mississippi. I miss my girls.”
Two weeks later the Khobar Towers were blown up. Mabus was gone and Ted Katouf was the Charge. Richard Hermann was Consul General. They hardly spoke to me and the mood had changed. I called Dick Herman and asked why they didn’t go back to the point man from the crown prince’s office — the one the crown prince assigned to help Mabus with the final arrangements for the release of my daughters. He denied that he knew about this man. He said he didn’t know his name and I reminded him of the name. No answer. No action.
I called Mazen, he said, ‘Pat, you can’t believe what has happened here. That lieutenant colonel went to the Saudi general who went to the American general and they forced Dick to issue him a visa. It was a very big deal, Pat. Dick had to issue him that visa. He was under a tremendous amount of pressure.”
Of course, the general had been given a visa by Ray Mabus in exchange for the release of the girls. He went to Houston for cancer treatment and the girls remained in Riyadh with Gheshayan.
Finally, in August Wyche Fowler, Jr., the new political appointee arrived in Riyadh as U.S. ambassador. Ray Mabus fully briefed him on the urgency of the situation. I sent him a long, detailed fax concerning the background and what Mabus had accomplished and what we needed him to do. No response. I called the ambassador’s office. The secretaries knew me very well from the Mabus term. We were quite friendly. They confirmed that Fowler had received all my faxes and messages. One day I called and asked to speak with Fowler. The secretary said, “Pat he is not here but is in Jeddah at the consul. Can I put you through to his office?”
Fowler picked up the telephone and was surprised that I was on the line. I asked if he had received my faxes. He denied receiving them. I explained that we needed his help. Ray Mabus was on the verge of getting my girls out of Saudi Arabia and it was up to him to just make the contact for us. It was finished ó all wrapped up. We had the promise of the crown prince. My girls could come home. He said to me, “Ms. Roush, I am in the middle of an Iraqi war here and don’t have time right now to deal with. I am aware of your situation and you are not doing one bit of good by cross examining me.”
He treated me like an impertinent schoolgirl who was way out of line by even speaking to him ó the very distinguished U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He wished he’d never picked up that phone and now he was dismissing me. The idea of my daughters didn’t interest him in the least. And I was soon to find out just what was interesting Mr. Fowler and it wasn’t an Iraqi war.
Associated Press: July 3, 1997
The State Department is seeking clarification from former Senator Wyche Fowler about how much he is telling a young Scottish woman about his new role as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
In a letter uncovered in a Scottish newspaper, Fowler, 55, tells his 24-year old pen pal that the Saudis are “elegant, candid and have a good sense of humor. We trade tales and laughs.” U.S. officials confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
Fowler, who was posted went to Saudi Arabia last August, says in the letter he has been “meeting influential Saudis, including the King, Crown Prince and his cabinet.” He adds: “I’ve been working very hard.”
State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns said Friday that U.S. officials are seeking clarification about the matter from Fowler, a former Georgia senator. Other officials said they wonder how much Fowler shared with his friend about his work.
The friend is Josephine Morton, 24, a physiotherapist and sports shop manager, whose relationship with Fowler was first disclosed in November by the Glasgow Evening Times, which sent a copy to The Washington Post. The Scottish newspaper said they had met on an airplane last summer.
“I do hope we will see each other soon,” the letter said. “I will work on it. I would love to see Scotland through your laughing eyes.”
He said he will visit “when I have no agenda ó such as asking permission to launch air strikes against other Islamic nations from Saudi territory.”
That was an apparent reference to the Saudi refusal to allow use of their territory for air strikes against Iraq last summer.
Fowler, who is married, began the letter by saying, “It was wonderful to hear your voice last night ó your accent being more lilting and lovelier than mine.”
He met her in the Summer 1996 when he was just arriving in Saudi Arabia to take over as ambassador. He had time to cheat on his wife and write silly, ridiculous love letters to a girl half his age but not to merely go back to the crown prince and or call his assistant and iron out the details of my daughters’ release from the kingdom. He joked and laughed with these amusing princes but couldn’t bring himself to say, “Hey about those Gheshayan sisters.”
No. Wyche Fowler had other things to do which didn’t include the release of my girls. The entire embassy changed towards me after he took over. He lifted the ban on visas for the Gheshayan family and they all got to come into the United States. It was party time and Fowler was in the middle of it all.
I was sick. I don’t know how I managed to stay alive after that. I called Ray Mabus in Mississippi. He was going back to the White House to meet President Clinton in December 1996. He told me he would personally take a letter from me to Clinton. He delivered it and again spoke to Clinton about the dire straits my daughters were in. Clinton said he would appoint someone to look into it. Nothing happened.
In April 1997 The San Francisco Examiner Sunday Magazine featured a ten page story about me and ABC television was preparing to air a segment I taped for 20/20. Wyche Fowler was very aware of this press. He sent my former attorney, Michael Wildes of Wildes & Weinberg, a fax and then Mr. Wildes called Mr. Fowler.
Fowler claimed that he spend one hundred hours on my case and he got nowhere. He had exhausted every possibility except a deal Hejeilan was proposing for another ‘visit’ in the kingdom for me. There are no other legal avenues. He said, “If Pat Roush doesn’t return here to see her children, she can let the chips fall where they may. I feel you’re crossing the line, Mr. Wildes. The deal is dead. The deal is dead.”
Michael Wildes said to Fowler, “That means the girls are forgotten, then. Why not do what Ray Mabus did?”
Fowler replied, “Why not get Ray Mabus then? You seem to get my name in the papers. The ball is in your court. The Saudis trust me, Mr. Wildes. Take it or leave it.”
He then pulled Hejeilan out of the bag again and those two came up with a plan to try to shut me up. They offered me another two hour visit with my poor daughters in prison. After all I had been through for eleven years I was back to square one. I was so close – promises from the highest Saudi authorities and now this. I was numb.
Hejeilan, as usual, seized the moment. He couldn’t pass up a chance to torture me. He was quiet when Ray Mabus was ambassador. Mabus didn’t need him to do any dirty work for him. Mabus was a man of integrity and authority but he was gone now. Hejeilan was back to his old tricks. He had wined and dined all the U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia that I had known and they have all been guests at his palace. He shuttled back and forth between Geneva, Switzerland, Nice, London, Paris, New York, Riyadh and of course his place out in Great Falls once per year so he could get a complete physicial at Walter Reed Army Hospital. I know all these things because I was baited time after time by him and his office always let me know where I could find him. I have all the telephone numbers all over the world for this man.
He immediately dictated another supplicant letter for me to sign. He had bullied me into signing such dribble at other times when he promised to help me. He wanted me to grovel on my knees before him for my children. Let me read to you this last supplicant letter he faxed for me to sign.
Dear Sheikh Salah:
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude that you will be sponsoring, yet again as in 1995 a visit with my two daughters in Saudi Arabia. I recognize the continued high level of your assistance and support since the 1980′s, including your undertaking once again to cover the cost of air fare and up to $2,000 towards hot accommodations in connection with my visit.
I wish to assure you that I have only complimentary remarks to make about your involvement in this matter. I deeply appreciate the humanitarian and compassionate motivation on which you have come to my assistance. I shall during my visit abide by all Saudi Arabian rules and regulations and shall adhere to Saudi Arabian customs, religious practices and cultural sensitivities. I shall be guided in my actions and statements while in Saudi Arabia by the U.S. Embassy, by my lawyer Mr. Michael Wildes and by your law firm.
I look forward with great anticipation to seeing my daughters again and to sharing so many experiences with them, however short the time we can spend together.
I sent it back to him with the caption: Give this to the sheikh! I would not be duped or humiliated by Hejeilan, the Saudi princes he represented and the State Department again.
In the Fall of 1997 Fowler’s confirmation hearing came up before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fowler had not been confirmed because he went into the Post during a recess. It took over a year for the matter to be brought up before the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate. I asked Diane Feinstein to object and she refused. Instead Fowler grandstanded with a pledge to help me. This was almost a year and a half after Mabus left.
This is an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle: September 27, 1997:
WOULD-BE AMBASSADOR TO SAUDIS PLEDGES AID IN CUSTODY DISPUTE
Nominee Fowler says he will help S.F. woman get back her daughters
President Clinton’s nominee to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia has promised to help a San Francisco woman whose two daughters were abducted from the United States by their father, a Saudi national.
Wyche Fowler told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written testimony this week that he would “work for a long-term satisfactory solution to this case.”
Fowler’s promise came after Patricia Roush, opposing his nomination in a letter to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, criticized Fowler for failing to do enough to help her get her children returned to her.
In her letter to Helms, Roush charged that Fowler, who took the post in a congressional recess appointment in August 1996, had not helped her.
In her letter to Helms, Roush noted that former Ambassador Raymond Mabus had pressured her ex-husband to give up the children by refusing to grant visas to members of his family who wanted to visit the United States, but that Fowler had lifted the ban on the visas.
Fowler wrote the committee in response this week that withholding the visas would most likely do little to guarantee the return of the children.
In defense of his efforts to help Roush, Fowler said he had arranged for her to visit her daughters this year in Saudi Arabia at no cost to her.
Fowler of course made it through the Confirmation Hearing with flying colors. No problem. His colleagues in the Senate knew ol’ Wyche and they weren’t going to turn him down.
Wyche Fowler was in Saudi Arabia for six years. He lobbied hard for that job and made a lot of money. He is now the grand statesman about town ó the Mid East expert and Chairman of the Board of the Mid East Institute. He gives speeches, goes to dinner parties and I am sure has many Saudi friends. His wife divorced him after that Scottish girl incident. He should be held responsible for what he did. He is a criminal and condemned my daughters to that dismal desert. It would have so easy for him to finish the job Mabus started. What was the downside for him? He could have gotten them out without offending any Saudis. Mabus had set it up. He chose not to do it. I do hope that there will be a forum where he will be held accountable here on earth for what he did. I know that when he stands before God he will not have his Saudi friends with him. The Bible states that the measure you give is the measure you shall receive and you shall be known as you are known. Mr. Fowler will be held accountable for the loss of my daughters and the marriage of my daughter, Alia.
The Saudis still maintain an arrogant attitude and dismiss the whole incident as stated in the Saudi-owned English language newspaper, The Arab News:
THE ARAB NEWS
March 15, 2001
CONGRESS TO TAKE UP CASE AGAINST SAUDI
RIYADH ó The US Congress is expected to look into an accusation tabled by an American woman against a Saudi man named Khaled Al-Ghashyan next month. Ghashyan has been accused by his American wife, Patricia, of kidnapping their two daughters 16 years ago, Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily reported. The family Ghashyan, who is now staying in Riyadh, expressed their surprise over the matter being taken to the Congress. “Why do they want now to exacerbate the issue? His daughters have grown up and one of them is already married.” the family said. — Abdul Rahman Mansour
What they are saying is: This is a fine, outstanding Saudi family with Saudi daughters, one of whom is married and pregnant. This is an old matter that was never an issue to begin with. Why does this American woman want to still make trouble for this nice family? Leave us allow.
Both of Gheshayan’s parents came into the United States for medical treatment from American doctors and nurses when they became ill. They used U.S. medical technology to try to save their lives and in the meantime kept my daughters away from me without so much as a phone call. I would call their house to speak with my girls and they would hang up on me. They came in with Diplomatic Passports accompanied by their international criminal son who broke U.S. law. But he was also given a Diplomatic Passport and the green light by INS. They made a mockery of U.S. law and the State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns, was vehemently denied this happened when questioned UPI and ABC news at a press conference.
The attitude of the State Department hasn’t changed in sixteen years. They still refer to my daughters as Saudi citizens. They say there is nothing they can do under Saudi law about this situation and they will not make this a State-to-State issue. They still reference the Children’s Issues Department when this matter comes up. This is not a child custody case. My daughters are adult women ó American citizens living in Saudi Arabia with no rights afforded them under the Constitution. Now I have an American citizen grandchild. What is to become of my family?
If Members of Congress are so concerned about the human rights and fair treatment of Saudi Al-Qaida prisoners held in Cuba and even make special trips to inspect that facility at Guantanamo, why aren’t they outraged about what has happened to my daughters? Why don’t they make an exchange – innocent daughters for the Saudi Al-Qaida killers.
Fifteen young Saudi schoolgirls were burned alive because they were wearing the wrong clothing. The religious police forced them back into an inferno. My daughters could have been in that fire.
I was one of the lucky ones – I out of Saudi Arabia with my life even though they came back and stole my daughters. Over the years I have heard of many American women who married Saudis, were physically beaten, went to the U.S. embassy and were turned out into the streets back to their abusers-only to sadistically beaten again. These women are trapped inside that desert. The State Department has no idea of what happened to them and has not questioned the Saudi authorities about their whereabouts. The chances are high that they were killed. The State Department should be held responsible and accountable for these lives and the lives of every American citizen in jeopardy inside Saudi Arabia ó child or adult. I was told by my former husband/abuser, “I could kill you and throw you out into the desert. Who would know?”
It is time now for a full investigation to be opened concerning the turning away of American women and children by the U.S. embassy under orders from the State Department. If they are refused asylum, they have no choice but to be subject to Saudi law which will not protect them. A man owns his wife and children and can do anything he wants to them ó including kill them. This is the reality of life in Saudi Arabia. The present policy must be changed.
There was a recent story in the Italian press about a little girl with an Italian mother and Algerian father who was taken to the Italian Embassy in Algiers by her mother for asylum. The child remained inside the Italian Embassy for two years while the Italian government negotiated for her release with the Algerian authorities. She was just taken back to Italy on an Italian military aircraft. That is how much her government cared about her. I have pleaded for the release of my daughters for over sixteen years and the American Embassy, under orders from the State Department was told ‘remain neutral’. They call it a ‘child custody case’, a ‘private family matter’ and they wash their hands of it.
I am asking for your help and the help of the entire U.S. Congress to free my daughters and Alia’s baby. The State Department must issue a Demarche to the Saudi Arabian authorities to have my family returned to America immediately. Gheshayan successfully sold my daughter, Alia, to a rich Saudi who impregnated her and now has put my daughter, Aisha, on the chopping block. She is now up for sale to the highest bidder. We don’t have any more time to waste.
This is a moral decision of conscience. As Moses pleaded with the obdurate heart of the Egyptian Pharoah for freedom for his people, I am beseeching you, let my family go. There are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.