x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Marriages to foreigners bring some unique cultural and legal hurdles

An Emirati woman met her Scottish-Egyptian husband through family friends, who supported her decision to marry a non-Emirati

More Emirati women, like Dubai's Hala Kazim, are choosing to marry foreigners.
More Emirati women, like Dubai's Hala Kazim, are choosing to marry foreigners.

Hala Kazim, from Dubai, met her Scottish-Egyptian husband through family friends.

Mrs Kazim, 48, said that her family was supportive of her decision to marry.

"I would not have married him without their support," she said. "I told my husband this and he respected it."

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Mrs Kazim, who married at 40, said that had she been younger her family would have been more sceptical of her decision.

"As you get older you have more experience," she said. "You have better judgement and you don't jump into relationships."

Preconceived notions about marrying outside the nationality must be dispelled, she said.

"Men from other nationalities are also good people," she said. "My husband is a wonderful person. Only time tells if this person is right for you."

The issue of citizenship rights struck a chord with Mrs Kazim, and she insisted these rights must be the same for Emirati men and women.

"Many Emirati men who marry and have children with foreign women don't assimilate their kids into the local culture, yet the children receive the citizenship," she said.

The 2007 law that granted women the right to marry foreigners lays down ground rules for the prospective husband, including the fact that he must have a job and be able to support his wife and family, must have valid citizenship from a country, must be a resident of the UAE, must be educated and must sign a statement that he does not want UAE citizenship.

"I appreciate all of this and I understand the government is trying to protect us," Mrs Kazim said. "But if men can pass down citizenship to their children, we should have the same right as well."

Mrs Kazim has one adopted Emirati son and one birth son. "My birth child, my own flesh and blood, cannot get citizenship," she said. "Is this fair?

"As mothers, we raise and nurture these kids. They grow up with our culture and speak our language. These children then feel lost, because they feel like Emiratis, but officially they are not. This needs to change."

mismail@thenational.ae