Sana lived in Saudi Arabia for twelve years and worked as a teacher. Her husband controlled her salary and used it to buy residential and agricultural land in Gaza which he registered in his own name. They returned to Gaza in 1998 and in 2003 he married a second wife. Sana tried to get a divorce but was advised it was not in the interests of her children.
“Although the younger children would have stayed with me, my older children would have gone to their father and I really didn’t want that. I was under pressure not to get divorced so I returned to my husband’s home. The arrangement is that I live upstairs with my children and the second wife lives downstairs.”
Concerned about the financial implications of the second marriage, Sana said she reached an agreement through an Islamic organisation of mediators that one-third of the land was hers.
“This didn’t reflect the value of what I had put in: I had contributed around 75,000 dinars (approximately US$105,000). But my husband speaks very well and convinced them he had arranged an arbitration with my brother that confirmed the land was his.”
In 2013, Sana approached an NRC partner in Gaza, the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, to claim her HLP rights. A PCDCR lawyer explained the agreement with her brother was invalid as she had not given him power of attorney nor signed the document.
“We have had three mediation sessions with the lawyer and reached a preliminary agreement. I will keep one-third of the land and be given the ground floor of the building where I am living. Also, one-third of the land will be unregistered so it can, hopefully, be inherited by my sons and daughters. Discussions with my husband are not easy, and my husband denies that I gave him the money. But he is just making excuses. I am still worried because he hasn’t yet signed the agreement. If he doesn’t I will go to court to claim my rights.”