A Welsh schoolgirl was starved, physically abused and kept in a cage during a series of alleged offences by her father who disagreed with her un-Islamic lifestyle, a court heard.
Amina al-Jeffrey, 21, was born in Swansea but moved to Saudia Arabia aged 16 as her father objected to her western lifestyle. She has been held captive in her academic father’s home ever since, the family division of the High Court was told on Tuesday.
Saudi authorities would not recognise Miss al-Jeffrey’s British citizenship, the forced marriage unit of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) said, adding that “steps need to be taken to ensure Amina is returned to the UK where her safety can be guaranteed”.
According to The Times, her father, Mohammed al-Jeffrey, 62, works at the Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and is reportedly receiving funding from the Saudi Arabian government to contest the court order to return his daughter to Britain.
Mr al-Jeffrey is believed to have moved to Wales before his daughter’s birth and has eight other children. The family are said to have received benefits and educated their children at British schools and universities.
Miss al-Jeffrey was taken to Saudi Arabia because her father disapproved of her “relationships and conduct”, Henry Setright, QC, representing Miss al-Jeffrey, said.
Mr Setright added that the father believed his daughter was “someone he has a duty to control, including her freedom of movement”.
Over the course of more than four years, the young woman has reportedly been physically abused, deprived of food and water, kept in a cage when her father leaves their home in Jeddah and is not allowed to marry the man of her choice, the court was told.
Mr al-Jeffrey was ordered by the High Court to bring his daughter to the British consulate in Jeddah on July 25 for a confidential discussion with her lawyers but he refused, allegedly demanding a guarantee from the FCO that his daughter would not be granted “sanctuary”.
Al-Jeffrey “could not bring himself” to follow the court’s order and attend the consulate, Marcus Scott-Manderson, QC, representing the father, said.
“She wants to return home so she can have control of her own life and make her own choices.” Anne-Marie Hutchinson, a British Lawyer, said.
He had, however, allowed his daughter to attend a previous meeting with consular staff, under the supervision of someone employed by her father. During the meeting at a hotel, Miss al-Jeffrey slipped a note under the table to express fears about her future to a member of embassy staff, the court was told.
Anne-Marie Hutchinson, a British lawyer, said that she had spoken to al-Jeffrey when she briefly escaped from her father’s home.
“She is a normal Welsh girl and still has her Welsh accent,” she said. “She wants to return home so she can have control of her own life and make her own choices.”
Mr Justice Holman said that the jurisdiction of the British courts was unclear because al-Jeffrey was now an adult with dual Saudi and UK citizenship. He said: “We have to be careful about asserting the supremacy our cultural standards.”
The hearing continues.