RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – A U.S. citizen trapped in Saudi Arabia in a custody battle over her eight-year-old daughter was detained by authorities this week, a rights group said on Tuesday.
Carly Morris and her daughter Tala have been in the kingdom since her Saudi ex-husband persuaded the two to visit the country in 2019.
On Monday, Morris was detained after being called by police in the central city of Buraydah to clarify documents, according to advocacy group the Freedom Initiative.
She was held for at least a day, during which it was unclear whether her daughter was detained with her. Morris was later released, according to reports early on Wednesday.
Morris met her husband in 2012 while he was studying in the U.S. The two divorced after five years of marriage in 2018.
After agreeing to visit Saudi Arabia on holiday in summer 2019 to introduce Tala to her father’s family, the Saudi man seized their documents and refused to give them back.
He later registered a hotel room, where Morris and her daughter have lived for more than three years.
Morris told MEE earlier this year that her husband took Tala on 30 March and didn’t return her.
“I can’t believe how they could take a woman’s child from her. I didn’t even know where my daughter was. I didn’t know where they took her,” she said.
“I didn’t even know if she was alive. I sat in this hotel apartment every day for two months not knowing where my daughter was. And they were absolutely ignoring every one of my phone calls and messages. It was absolute cruelty.”
Three months later, the police finally reunited Tala with her mother. During that time, Morris discovered her ex-husband was filing for custody of their daughter. She wrote a 16-page letter to the court - and on 23 August the Saudi court gave Morris full custody of her daughter.
The U.S. citizen eventually got her passport back, but found out that her ex-husband reportedly converted Tala’s U.S. citizenship into Saudi citizenship.