Badia Hani Fahs is a 49-year-old mother who has been deprived of seeing her sons for the past 11 years.
11 years ago, Badia got divorced and lost custody of her two children, Ali and Iyad. She hasn’t seen them ever since.
At the time of the divorce, Iyad was 3, and Ali was only one. Now, Iyad is 14, and Ali is 12. For 11 years, Badia sneaked peeks at her kids from afar. She wasn’t allowed anywhere near her children.
Badia is an example of thousands of Lebanese mothers who get separated from their children after a divorce.
In Lebanon, religious courts rule over the family affairs of their communities, and they always rule in favor of the family male authority: the father or any other male family member in the absence of a father.
That has been one of the cruelest and most prejudicial precepts in Lebanon, causing families tremendous suffering. To note, most divorces in Lebanon are filed by husbands/fathers. A divorce or separation is seldom a woman’s decision.
One of these cruel situations in Lebanon took the media by storm two months ago when a mother named Lina was not even allowed to see her dying daughter and had to break that “law” to visit her daughter’s grave.
Lina and Badia both belong to the Shiite community, which court also prevents the divorced mother from child custody. The child or children must live with their father.
In the event of the father’s death, the custody is transferred to the grandparents or the uncle, but never to the mother in any case.
This is similar to all religious courts in Lebanon, where such prejudicial precept fundamentally contradicts our family-oriented culture and traditions.
Strangely enough, they also contradict these same courts’ own doctrines stating that the role of the women is to raise the children and the husbands/fathers to provide for their sustenance.
Prejudical gender-bias codes are also present in Lebanon’s civil laws where children are not recognized as Lebanese if their mothers married a foreigner.
When the 17 October revolution erupted in Lebanon, it gave voice to all people. It motivated the oppressed to speak up and demand their rights. Among those are Lebanese mothers.
Badia was among the hundreds of people who took to the streets in Nabatiyeh, South of Lebanon. She held up a sign that said: “I want to see my kids.”
Her sign caught the attention of the people around her. It had one simple sentence on it but it meant the world to Badia and it shook the people.
There was Badia, standing among the people chanting for the revolution, for reformation, and for the fall of the regime, and all that she wanted is to see her kids…
And the protesters made it happen!
A short reunion occurred, even a brief one. Badia spoke about it on a post she shared on Facebook. Why a short reunion? Because, soon after the mother and son finally came face to face, Iyad’s cousin came to separate them again and reproached them for breaching the law of custody.
This is Badia’s story as told in her own words:
“Today I decided to participate in a protest in Nabatiyeh, carrying with me an 11-year-old dream. I wrote on a small, white sign: I want to see my kids, and I stood among the people. After a short while, this small sentence became the center of the protest.”
“Nabatiyeh is a small city and a big village, everyone knows everyone and stories go around. My story is well known here. A young girl approached me and told me that she saw my son Iyad in the protest.”
“A young man standing next to me got excited and took the sign from me and added my kids’ names on it. He then handed it over to a young woman, who stood on the stage holding it up.”
Soon, the protesting crowd started shouting: “Iyad, where are you? Your mother is here and she wants to see you!”
The protesters started looking and asking for him all over the street. Many of them come back to Badia, hugging and kissing her, some even crying. “Don’t worry. We’ll find him. This day won’t end before you see him,” they told her.
After a while, a young girl came her way, grabbed her by the hand, and dragged her, crying: “I found him! I found him!”
The girl then stopped and stepped aside. “For the first time in 11 years, I see my son, in flesh and blood, standing in front of me. I didn’t know what to say or do,” Badia recounted.
There, facing her son after over a decade, the mother was overwhelmed with feelings and.. dreads.
“I was afraid of crying or laughing, I was afraid of letting myself be happy, of hugging him and telling him that I love and miss him. I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me,” she said. “I finally got myself together and asked if he recognized me.”
From his side, the son was also overwhelmed. He did recognize his mother but could only say “yes.”
“His voice was trembling, his hands were trembling, and he was crying,” the mother recounted, “He was afraid, just like me. He was shy and confused.”
Badia asked him if she could kiss him but Iyad got scared. He told her in a whisper, “Not now.” Only then did Badia notice his cousin standing next to her son, ready to attack her, according to Badia, which she did.
She reproved Badia and admonished her. “She shouted at me and insulted me. She then took Iyad by the hand and dragged him away from me.”
Now, Badia is back to being a devastated mother, fighting the religious court and a society that demeans women and openly robs them of their motherhood rights.
She is fighting this system every day through the revolution and through expressing herself and demanding justice for all Lebanese women and mothers.
The brief reunion with her son happened on the very first days of the revolution. Going through Badia’s profile tells us that she is still aching for her sons, and she won’t be giving up anytime soon.
“We will meet one day…,” she says in one of her posts.