By Pat Roush
Friday, June 20, 2003 1:00 a.m.
On the eve of her 24th birthday, Sarah Saga, the courageous, young woman who has sought sanctuary inside the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the past five days, was brought face-to-face with members of the Saudi government inside her living quarters. She was not given the choice of refusing these uninvited guests, but told by U.S. consular officers that she must comply with Saudi demands for a meeting.
As Sarah and her two young children huddled in a corner of the room, three Saudi men from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached her. She had grown up in a household with an abusive Saudi father who had beaten her on a regular basis, threatened her with a knife, and locked her up in a room for two years as revealed to me in an audiotaped interview a few weeks ago. Now, her worst nightmare was coming true – Saudi men again intimating her and scaring her right inside the U.S. Consulate and in her own bedroom.
One of them said, “Let us tell you what your problem is – but your option is only one.” The nervous, frightened woman signed the document placed before her and then the men left. The arrangements had been made. Sarah was to be placed on a commercial airliner at 2 a.m. this morning and her children were to be given to relatives. The Saudis wanted to end this “hostage situation” and get back to their PR campaign in the U.S.
But Sarah has decided that she won’t go. “I will never leave my children here to suffer the same horrible life that I had to endure,” she tells a Fox News audience. She has locked herself inside her room and keeps her little ones close by.
A couple of days ago, Sarah told her mom that she had a piece of chocolate cake at the consulate cafeteria. “I told Sarah we’ll have a big chocolate cake for her birthday when she comes home. That was her favorite.”
Birthdays aren’t celebrated in Saudi Arabia. They consider it a Western holiday. When I met my daughters in a hotel room in Riyadh eight years ago, Aisha didn’t even know her correct age. I brought Alia a “Sweet Sixteen” birthday card as a present, but she was perplexed by it all.
This will be the first birthday in eighteen years that Sarah Saga will celebrate. Although she may be alone in a room in the U.S. Consulate with danger all around her, she can have her chocolate cake with her kids and we can each light one candle for Sarah and pray for her safe return.