US charges woman’s family with kidnapping her for Yemen marriage

NEW YORK (AFP): A Buffalo, New York woman’s father and brother kidnapped her from Mexico where she was planning to wed and forcibly took her to Yemen for an arranged marriage, the Justice Department charged Thursday.

Khaled Abughanem, 50, and Waleed Abughanem, 32 were arrested and charged with conspiracy to kidnap persons in a foreign country, which carries up to life in prison if they are convicted.

The Justice Department said that in early September 2021 the unnamed woman, an adult US citizen and university student, traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico to marry her fiance, whom she had known for nine years, without her family’s knowledge.

When they found out, the family went to Mexico and physically forced her to return home against her wishes, the indictment said.

Back in Buffalo, she was forced to withdraw from university, denied Internet and social media access, not allowed contact with her US fiance, and locked in her home, according to indictment.

“The victim was told if she did not comply and agree to an arranged marriage, she would be locked up in her home without contact with the outside world forever and her fiance … would be killed,” the Justice Department said.

Under pressure, in late September she flew with her family to Egypt and then Yemen, failing in several attempts to flee from hotel rooms and airports.

In Cairo, according to the woman’s account, her father told her: “You are no longer in the West, you are in the Middle East, women like you are killed,” the indictment said.

Once in Yemen they traveled to Houthi-controlled territory where her father told her he would be paid $500,000 for the arranged marriage.

When she still refused, she was beaten and choked by her father, the statement said.

A marriage was not arranged, and in April 2022 most of the family departed Yemen, leaving her in control of her brothers in a Sanaa apartment.

The indictment did not say how US justice authorities learned of her plight in late 2022.

But the indictment made reference to an unnamed non-profit organization that has become an advocate for her and supplied details of her situation.