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U.S. Woman to Leave Saudi Arabia Without Children
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Jun 19, 2:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American woman married to a Saudi man decided to leave the U.S. consulate in Jeddah on Thursday to return to the United States, at the cost of handing her two children over to her husband's family, a State Department official said.

Sarah Saga, 24, took refuge in the consulate with her children four days ago because she felt in danger from her husband and her Saudi father, who took her to live in Saudi Arabia when she was five years old.

"We understand that this morning Sarah decided that she would leave Saudi Arabia and that her children would remain in that country in the custody of her husband's family," said Edward Vazquez, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

"Our understanding is that they will be turned over to an aunt whom Sarah trusts," he told reporters.

Under Saudi law, husbands have a strong claim to custody over their children. They can also restrict travel their wives' travel but the United States has negotiated an exception for wives who are U.S. citizens and who want to leave the country.

In a telephone interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" show earlier on Thursday, Saga said she would not leave the consulate in Jeddah because she feared her husband and father would hurt her and her children.

"It's very dangerous for me to go out of the consulate. I have no choice but to stay here until I can take my kids with me... The kids might be taken. There is my father out there and my husband. They are both angry and I don't know what they are capable of," she said.

Another U.S. woman married to a Saudi took refuge in the consulate earlier this month under similar circumstances but left on Tuesday to attempt a reconciliation with her husband. The State Department has declined to name her.

Vazquez said the consulate had not tried to influence Saga's decision and remained willing to offer refuge to other U.S. women who feel they are in danger.

Saga went to Saudi Arabia after her Saudi father separated from her American mother, Debbie Dournier, who lives in the United States.


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