Eight years ago Wafa Al Yahya was a divorced mother of three and a PhD candidate at the Religious Studies department at King Saud University here in Riyadh. Her three children were 12 year old Sarah, 10 year old Abdullah and five year old Najla. I use the past tense when referring to this single mother and her three children because eight years ago they disappeared into thin air.
There are two versions of what happened to Wafa Al Yahya and her three kids. The only thing that the two versions agree on is that she disappeared in August 2005. The first version is the government’s. The National Society for Human Rights, NSHR, (a governmental organization), issued a statement last week:
What has been spread on social networking sites about the citizen Wafa Mohammed Yahya and her three children being held by the Saudi authorities is not true at all. The NSHR has been following her case for a long time in cooperation with the concerned authorities. She is not being held by the Saudi authorities and current information indicates that she was smuggled with her children to Yemen. We do not currently know their fate and whereabouts. We urge anyone who has documented information about her or her children to communicate that information to nshr.sms @ gmail.com. This is to help her family.
The regional director for AlArabiya News Channel, Khalid Al Matrafi, also offered a bit of information on Twitter. Al Matrafi wrote on the 29th of July:
Exclusive and important … Wafa Al Yahya married Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. After his death she married Abu Suleiman Al-Otaibi who left her and moved to Afghanistan. He was later killed along with his Iraqi wife. His daughter from his Iraqi wife was handed over to his father. Wafa was killed in Iraq. Her eldest daughter married one of the rebel leaders in Iraq. There is no information on the fate of her son and youngest daughter. The man who smuggled Wafa and her children to Yemen then Iraq is in Saudi custody and awaiting trial… Wafa’s mother and her brother Ahmed know the details.
The family version of what happened to Wafa Al Yahya was stated on July 25th in a protest in Jeddah. Two of the women at the protest claim that they are Wafa’s sisters. Their version is that on the day that King Abdullah was announced king, Wafa and her three children were abducted by the Saudi authorities from their apartment in Riyadh. They say that she was taken because of what she wrote online in support of Al Qaeda. In a Twitmail that was posted nine days ago by an Ali Al Ajami and read over 50,000 times, it states that her ex-husband, Osama Al Dawood, an army officer, insists that he knows nothing about her and the children’s whereabouts. The article also claims that when her brother Ahmed went to the Saudi authorities to ask about her, he was detained for 45 days.
Right now the Saudi deputy consul in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, Abdulla Al Khalidi, is being held by a group linked to Al Qaeda. He was kidnapped on March 28th and his captors demand the release of women political prisoners in Saudi in exchange for AlKhalidi. However the Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki insists that since the release of five women on July 23rd, there is only one woman related to Al Qaeda in Saudi prisons. Here he is obviously referring to Heila Al Qusayer who I’ve written about previously. Today HRH Prince Khalid bin Talal went on AlMajd TV, an ultra-conservative network, to again assert that Wafa is not in Saudi and he offered to escort anyone who believes they have a female relative in prison to personally see the Minister of Interior Affairs.
Yet AlQaeda, their sympathizers and Wafa’s family insist that she is being held in Saudi, while the Saudi authorities insist that she had left the country.