He later took the children to Saudi Arabia, and there was no way for her to get them back.
statement by Patricia Roush
Good morning, members of the committee. I'm pleased to participate in this panel and present you with my testimony. Terrorism takes on many forms, and for 16 and a half years, my two American daughters, Alia and Aisha Gheshayan and I, have been victims of the worst emotional, psychological and spiritual terrorism possible. We have been separated from each other by two systems of evil that have broken the moral law that governs all human beings.
My daughters have been taken hostage by a medieval totalitarian system, and the central authority of our government, the U.S. Department of State, has done everything to enable that system to destroy the lives of my beloved daughters and shatter my family. I have previously testified before the House International Relations Committee in 1987, Subcommittee for the Near East, concerning violations of human rights of American citizens by the Saudi Arabian Government. The honorable Tom Lantos was Chair, and his very powerful words addressing Assistant Secretary of State Marion Creekmore continue to remain with me. "Is this the image that you want to portray of the United States, that of the impotent giant that cannot get back two little innocent children from Saudi Arabia?"
Secretary Creekmore's response was, I don't think the withholding of visas to the United States for Saudis is the proper way to resolve this.
By way of background, for the last 16 years, I have tirelessly pioneered the issue of American children kidnapped and taken abroad. My relentless efforts over the years led to the creation of the Office of Children's Issues at the State Department in 1987, and to the enactment of the International Parental Kidnapping Act in 1993. The Hague Treaty on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was signed in 1987 by the United States because of the high profile of my case in the Congress and the press.
The Office of Children's Issues unfortunately has never been what it was intended to be, which is a place of authority that U.S. citizens can turn to for assistance when their children are abducted to a foreign country. Instead, it is merely another file and data collecting agency of the Federal Government.
Working to free my daughters has become a mission-impossible assignment that I have accepted as part of my daily life. Before my two daughters were kidnapped, my 7-year-old would sing with such delight, "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow. It is only a day away." This was her favorite song from the movie Annie about a little girl who was lost and found. But the happy ending from the Hollywood movie never materialized for my little girls, and as the Arabic folk expression states, 20 years will soon be tomorrow, became their reality.
The girls are now women, ages 23 and 19. They were kidnapped and taken to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia by their Saudi national father in 1986. They were 3 and 7 at the time. This is a father they hardly knew and feared, who had a documented history of a severe mental illness with a paranoid and violent ideation. He has been their master for almost 17 years. They fear him and have learned to submit and suffocate themselves to his demands. Saudi Arabia has violated my human rights and the human rights and Constitutional rights afforded to my daughters as American citizens. The U.S. State Department is an accessory and active conspirator in the denial of these rights. The U.S. Government receives benefits from the Saudi Arabian Government in various forms, which induces to violate these rights. Everyone is entitled to freedom from fear. The U.S. State Department and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have both intentionally used their great power to create fear to intimidate and threaten my daughters and me. My daughters are victims of forced religious conversion as outlined in the International Religious Freedom Act.
My Christian daughters were forced to convert to Islam, and as you know, religious choice is not an option in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They could be put to death if they even spoke the name of Jesus. This is also an act of ethnocide. My daughters have had their culture and society taken away and been denied their heritage. Do they know that their mother's family has been on the U.S. soil since 1711 and fought in all the wars to keep America free? Do they even know what freedom is? My daughters have been stolen and kept in captivity for 16 years incommunicado with the entire western world. They have no knowledge of the rest of the world except by way of Saudi Arabian censored television and the males that are their masters. They are denied the rule of law, denial of due process. Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state where my daughters are locked up, wrapped up and shut up.
This is a cover picture from National Geographic magazine showing that well-known photograph of a young green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover 20 years ago, now wearing the dreaded burqa. The caption says, found. And this is a picture of what my daughters are wearing today, basic black from head to toe. They have no choice. The Saudi Religious Police can arrest, imprison or kill them for not wearing this garb. This little insert picture of my little girls in the white dresses with puffed sleeves is 17 years old. It is the last picture I have of them.
Underneath the picture it also says, "found.'' Yes, we found them, but they were never lost. We always knew just where they were but couldn't save them from their destiny which is no different from the destiny of this poor Afghan woman. They are also condemned to a life behind a vail without any rights, the life of silence, submission and servitude. They are treated as Saudi women, not American women living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Government doesn't even recognize their American citizenship. They are the property of their husbands. They can be put to death by these men if the men so choose to dispose of them. It is called honor killing, and the price of honor in Saudi Arabia for women is quite steep.
The State Department called me yesterday to--yesterday was my 56th birthday. My girls were kidnapped when I was 39. The State Department called me on my 56th birthday to tell me that my youngest daughter Aisha was sold to a man that she hardly knew. This selling of my youngest daughter was in retaliation because their father and the Saudi Government knew about this hearing.
Contrary to the statements appearing in the Saudi-owned press, Asharq Al Awsat, listed on the official Web site of the Saudi Embassy, SaudiEmbassy.net, which recently published a very biased, slanderous article about me concocted by the Saudi Government and Gheshayan. These are American women not ``Saudi daughters.'' The Saudi Government continues infantile employs to place this ordeal and my daughters in the middle of an international chess match. The playing field is far from even, and they have a great advantage, the physical possession of my daughters and my unborn grandchild, yes, I found out by reading this Saudi-owned newspaper that I will be a grandmother. I have no knowledge of the well-being or status of my daughters, none. And the little bit of information I have gotten over the years has been second-hand.
My daughters are 23 and 19 years of age and know one has seen either of them since they turned 18. When they were children, the State Department only saw them three times in 14 years.
In 1986, just 10 months after the girls were kidnapped, the Riyadh Governors' office and the American Embassy worked out a deal to have the girls released. This was due to the tremendous pressure in the U.S. Senate organized by former U.S. Senator, Allan Dixon of Illinois. The Governor of Riyadh's office was going to allow the girls to leave the kingdom and his representative Saleh Hejeilan was making all the arrangements.
Hejeilan then told me your government doesn't want you. Your State Department will not help you. You will see your children if and when we decide. He then videotaped my young daughters like prisoners on display, all within the presence of the American Council general, who remained silent. He later told me that my 8-year-old daughter, Alia, was forced to say on tape that she hated her mother and the United States. Her eyes had a wild glazed look and she looked terrorized.
The Saudis then began to systematically put me through a 16-year torture with one lie and broken promise after the other. They delighted in this sadistic game and used their control over the lives of my daughters to taunt me. Another time Hejeilan told me you are being punished for going to the politicians and the press.
In 1995, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Raymond Mabus began a campaign to help me. He is a true hero, a man of integrity who stood up to the Saudis and got me into the kingdom to see my girls. He went to every Saudi prince, including Crown Prince Abdullah for the release of my daughters. I was only able to see the girls once for 2 hours, but they told me they loved me and asked me to take them out of there. They were 16 and 13 at the time, terribly emotionally abused by their father. The Saudis wouldn't allow me to see them again, and I spent 21 days of heart wrenching pain inside a hotel room in Riyadh.
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHR ... g80882.htm
This transcript is from 2002