By Rana Husseini
Jordan Times, Amman.
The one-day detention of Al Jazeera correspondent in Amman, Rula Amin, over a child custody battle has sparked angry reactions from women activists and caused a media buzz.
The 48-year-old veteran journalist, who currently works for Al Jazeera English Channel, was arrested on Monday and sent to the Jweideh Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre for refusing to give up custody of her five-year-old daughter Dina, according to her lawyer and friends.
Amin was released on Tuesday by the Sharia Appeals Court, which had ordered her arrest, “based on new court proceedings”, her lawyer, Mohammad Abu Halimeh told The Jordan Times.
Amin’s ex-husband Mohammad Ajlouni said he filed the case because she allegedly deprived him of seeing his daughter.
“I just want my legal right to see my daughter at designated times. I am not after the custody of Dina,” Ajlouni told The Jordan Times.
Abu Halimeh claimed that the “proceedings of the Sharia Appeals Court, which led to the ruling ordering Amin to surrender her daughter to her ex-husband or face imprisonment until she complies were wrong”.
“A few months ago, the Sharia Appeals Court granted my client immediate custody of her child, then reversed the decision on March 15, granting custody to the father,” Abu Halimeh said.
He added that the court issued a notification ordering Amin to hand over the child to her father within seven days of the date, “but my client was arrested the following day”.
“The authorities did not wait for the seven-day period and immediate detained my client,” Abu Halimeh noted, who added that Dina was kept in “a safe place until this ordeal is over”.
Amin, who also worked for CNN, divorced Ajlouni, who is founder and CEO of Arab Broadcast Services, almost three years ago, but signed papers agreeing on child custody and visitation rights, according to a close friend.
“The custody became an issue when Ajlouni took the child away from Amin almost a year ago and she was unable to see her daughter for eight months,” added the friend, who preferred anonymity.
But Ajlouni claimed that Amin was the one who deprived him from seeing his daughter for 17 months and “insisted on taking her to Lebanon, a country that I cannot enter”.
“My ex-wife wants to keep my daughter in Beirut, a city that I cannot go to due to my political stands and because my life would be in danger,” he added.
Amin recently moved back to Jordan to focus on the custody case at the Sharia court, according to Abu Halimeh.
Many websites carried news of her detention, while Facebook and Twitter users voiced outrage over what they described as an “unusual and arbitrary [measure] to lock up a mother in prison over custody matters”.
Asma Khader, a human rights activist and former minster, slammed the “arbitrary procedures that led to Amin’s arrest, which does not benefit her daughter’s well-being”.
“Does this mean that working mothers or unveiled women do not qualify for child custody at our courts?”
Nisreen Alami, gender expert and former policy adviser at UN Women, also expressed dismay over the arrest.
“I have worked all my life on women’s rights — in Jordan since the 1990s and globally since 2001. I know Jordan always takes pride in the advances in favour of women’s rights,” Alami said.
“I also know that no one would argue that a child’s custody is the right of the mother. I also know that the script of the law and the spirit of Sharia is to protect the rights of the child, and allow women some dignity in having a minimum level of rights in cases of divorce.”
Alami said the implementation of the law in such cases “is obstructed by deep levels of discrimination and disrespect… in a way that is in total contradiction with any claim that there is legal reform, rule of law and respect of women’s rights”.