We Have Bitter Memories, We Women
By: Shirin Momeni
Friday 26 September 2008
Translated by: Pouran
One year after my divorce, I was offered the opportunity to work abroad. This was the best chance for me to experience life outside the country and with the improved income, I could make up for the past. More importantly this would help provide a brighter future for my daughter. Therefore, to satisfy the judges who deal with family affairs, I left for Tehran, but upon arrival at the administrative office, all my negative memories re-surfaced. The divorce and the proof of my husband’s mental illness, with whom I had lived only two and half years. In an effort to obtain custody of my daughter, I had to forego part of my income to my husband to convince him to a mutually agreed divorce and that I should have custody.
I still question all that has taken place. The court decided to give me the right to divorce because of his mental condition and based on the medical board certification supporting the fact that he was incapable of a life together with me; however when it came to our daughter he was still recognized as the principal legal guardian!! To get his consent, I didn’t ask for child support and tried the best I could to satisfy him. What was interesting was that even his attorney recognized the justice of my cause and tried to help me, doing his best to convince his client in a way that was in my interest.
I waited for the judge, who was handling another case, and listened to another woman pleading her case.
She was a 45-46 year old woman with a 12-13 year old girl and a 15 year old boy. I was confident about the boy’s age as the judge repeatedly pointed it out. She spoke with great sadness and sorrow:
"Hajj Agha, I swear to God that I’m tired of cleaning people’s houses in order to support my children. I lost my youth and am not strong and healthy. If you let me sell this house, I can purchase a smaller one for less and deposit the rest of it in a bank account that will give me interest. This way I don’t have to work so hard."
The judge responded, "Madam, this house belongs to this boy and girl. Your portion is not big enough to enable you to decide on it. You need to wait until your son is 18, and then, given that he is entitled to the larger share, he can apply for it." The woman replied, "Well, the way I’m working now to support these two children and their education, I may not live to see that day. Then what will become of this girl?"
At that moment an officer came and called the judge to another room. I asked the woman what her problem was. She replied, "four years ago my husband was working on site when he fell off the building and died. He, was a construction contractor, God bless his soul. We have neither insurance nor a pension nor any of this. Yet God bless his soul that he left this house for us. Nobody is helping us. Nobody is visiting us. I’m alone with these two children. They both go to school. Well, I don’t want to raise them illiterate like myself. The cost of living is very high and I don’t have any other skills except house keeping. So, I had to work in people’s houses as a maid. I swear to God, I have worked so hard that I’ve worn myself out. After my husband passed away, the court took custody of the children, because my husband was the only son of the family and his father was already deceased. His mother and sister live in the village. They didn’t ask for any inheritance. My poor mother-in-law is living in her son-in-law’s house. Well, that’s how it is in the village.
"I was happy because I thought that since the court has custody and supervision of my children, at least I will be dealing with more educated people, but there is no sign of help. The court is asking for the probate in order to allow me to sell the house. Well, these two are still kids and nobody wants to deal with them."
By this time, the judge had returned to his chamber. The woman asked him again: "Hajj Agha, what do you suggest I do then?"
He replied, "I’m telling you, you have to wait until your son is eighteen. Legally you do not have the right to sell the house." The woman burst into floods of tears and started pleading with the judge. When her children saw her in this state, they were upset, and taking their mother by the hand, they led her out of the room.
The Judge turned to me and asked, "what can I do for you?"
I said, "With reference to the content of the Passport Office file number…, I would like to ask you to allow me to apply for a passport for my daughter, since I have her custody and receive no child support.
The Judge reviewed the documents in the file and replied, "It is not possible, madam. I need her father’s permission. He is still the main guardian by law." I stayed silent. The file remained on his desk and I exited quietly.