Saving Hanan

Kristin Corse, Staff Writer

On Monday, October 29th, 2012, Amnesty International welcomed Marcel Wright to tell his story. Wright was a security manager at the United States’ Embassy in Djibouti when he met and fell in love with Hanan Howail, a 27 year-old Tanzania citizen. After falling in love with Hanan, Wright proposed to her and both were planning on getting married. Her father, however, was not thrilled at the idea of his daughter marrying an American. He believed Wright was not wealthy enough and did not like the fact that Marcel does not share the same culture as them.  Her father threatened to kill her if she did not stop seeing Wright, and was determined to keep him away from his daughter.

As a trick to lure Hanan away from Marcel, Hanan’s father pretended to give them permission to wed and had a proper Islamic engagement party to celebrate their nuptials. In addition, Hanan’s family told her that her grandmother was dying of cancer and she should go visit her before the wedding. When Hanan arrived in Saudi Arabia, her family took away her passport, before beating and strangling her. Her sisters have attempted to cover up this tragedy by using her passport to impersonate her.

Many embassies are aware of Wright’s situation, as well as the Human Rights Watch. Hanan has sought help but has failed to receive any because of Saudi Arabia’s Guardianship Society, which dictates that her father has ultimate control over the family.

Hanan has evidence of abuse but does not have the ability to press charges or escape because of her family’s tight restrictions. However, in cases like Hanan’s, some have been able to escape the guardianship through social activism, which is where Wright steps in.

By sharing her story in person and on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, Wright seeks support and help in bringing his fiancée home. Marcel is asking all West High students and faculty to help by fundraising for her legal defense can make a huge difference in helping Hanan. Most lawyers do not want to deal with human rights issues, especially if that issue has to do with foreign cultural differences. Fighting against those odds, Wright is determined to find a lawyer that can bring Hanan’s case to justice.

“I went to Djibouti for business. I never thought I would fall in love,” said Wright. When asked if he ever thought about using guerilla tactics to save Hanan, Wright answered with, “Sometimes a peaceful protest is the most powerful.” In fighting for his beliefs and the one he loves, he said, “You can either go along with the system or you can stand up [against] it, which is what I’m doing.”