I believe that the hardest pill to ever swallow would be forced distancing with one’s children. For parents, it’s a lot easier to give up on life than to give up on their children. However, not everyone has the heart to understand this.
My story started in 2009 when I married Rachel Watson in the UAE. We had two kids, Sabriya Al Namani in 2009 and Adil Al Namani in 2011. In 2012, we mutually decided that I would move to Oman for the purpose of work and other personal reasons while Rachel and the kids were to continue to stay in Dubai. Personal reasons of which I prefer to keep private for the sake of Rachel’s reputation; even though she pays no regard or interest for the children’s well-being or mine by kidnapping them and completely alienating me and my family in the process.
Even after our separation, my family and I always enjoyed the loving relationship and strong bond we had with the kids and Rachel even though she had already moved on and was with another man. During this period, my kids and I frequently visited each other and spent quality time together on holidays and special occasions; little did I know about the dark clouds awaiting me.
Everything was completely fine until November 2018. I found the voice notes my kids had been sending to my sister’s group on WhatsApp. In those voice notes, they mentioned that they were leaving Dubai in less than a month and that their mom has already landed a job in the USA and has even registered them in a school. On that very day, my life turned upside down, and a peaceful night’s sleep became a mere dream for me. I didn’t know what I was feeling at that moment. Was I angry? Or shocked? Or devastated? I don’t know. My brain had stopped processing.
After struggling with my thoughts, I finally put myself together and decided to confront my daughter to know what was exactly going on. Now, as if all this shock wasn’t enough for me already, my daughter told me she wasn’t “supposed” to share it with anyone…yes, not even me. Later, through Abu Dhabi Buy and Sell ads, I found Rachel was selling all the household items and was more than ready to leave – that too, without mentioning a single word to me.
I realized things were totally out of my control now, and to regain some control over the situation, I hired the best lawyer I could afford. I decided to give up everything just to hold my kids close to my heart. The lawyer advised me to apply for a travel ban immediately for the kids, in order to buy some time and get a chance to sit and talk things out with Rachel. Since I was informed accidentally and the children were given instructions not to speak, it was clear that she had no intention of informing me. The plan was to flee. I was not aware of their travel date and was worried I would not get a chance to resolve the matter before they fled, so I thought it is best to follow the lawyer’s advice.
The kids came to Oman from the 30th of November until the 4th of December 2018. Their mother picked them up where my poor daughter locked herself in my car, screaming and refusing to go with her mother, as she was fully aware of her ugly intentions. I tried to calm her down and reassured her that she would come back in 3 days when it was scheduled to sit with her mother regarding the matter.
I was certain that we would come to some kind of reasoning and understanding as this was nothing but unnecessary drama. I wish I knew it was the last time my eyes were blessed with the beautiful sight of my kids…Yes, it was my last encounter with them as from that point onward, Rachel completely cut me off from them, and I have been unable to contact them to date. I have no idea how they are coping with the situation as they were so attached to me and the rest of the family here in Oman. They were surely not prepared for such a sudden cut-off from the family. The travel ban and a Dubai court order for her to surrender the kid’s passports to me were granted on the 5th December 2018.
Immediately after the travel ban was issued, I traveled to Abu Dhabi to discuss the matter with Rachel. She was furious about the travel ban as she had been informed by the authorities by then, and she simply told me, “I am American, and I have enough money to hire the best lawyers in the UAE and remove the travel ban and take the kids whether you agree or not. You will never see the kids again!” She was confident that she could bypass the UAE law that articulates that the kids cannot travel without their father’s consent and that the father should have guardianship of their passports at all times. I was outraged to the core of my heart, but I still stayed composed, hoping for a positive solution.
Later, I found out that Rachel was secretly married another man in Abu Dhabi since 2017 and she already had a daughter with that man of Pakistani origin and also there was a case opened against me, which I had no idea about regardless of constant contact between Rachel and me. On the basis of that case, Rachel was granted custody, alimony, and divorce in 2012! Immediately we filed for custody and appealed the old case, which we were able to prove in court that it was done without following proper legal procedures. I provided evidence that I had never been served notice, nor was I aware of any of the court proceedings throughout the duration of the case, as I was not even in the country at that time. However, Rachel was in constant contact with me and was frequently visiting with the kids but never mentioned her desire for a divorce to me, at any point.
I later found out in court that she had listed her address and phone number in the UAE as mine for me to be served while she knew exactly where I was. After providing sufficient evidence including my travel log from the UAE authorities, the court in Dubai canceled the ruling of custody, alimony, and divorce. Regardless of all the above, Rachel and Nancy Grot – the grandmother -managed to flee the country with my children and Rachel’s youngest daughter whom she had with another man in Abu Dhabi.
In June 2019 before they fled, I requested the court in Abu Dhabi, since it is where my kids were staying, to give me an order to receive the kids’ passports as well as to be able to see them immediately, which was granted by the court. The social worker and the police tried to enforce the rulings repeatedly for more than 3 months but failed continuously as the grandmother kept changing their location to evade authorities. We later found out after receiving the travel logs of Rachel Watson, through court, that she had left the country on Dec 25th, 2018, and left the kids back in the UAE. Yes, she never took them with her, and I still had no clue of where and how my kids were. Every night, I could not sleep with this burden on my chest. I hope and pray, no one, not even an enemy, ever has to face such a difficult time in his or her life.
Soon after the court issued an arrest warrant for Rachel for not complying with the UAE law, we found out that her mother Nancy Grot had come from the USA to stay with the kids. We also found out that the kids were taken out of school from December 13th, 2018 until the end of the school year in August 2019, which is a criminal offense in the UAE to not provide kids with their right to education. Not only did they endanger the psychological well-being of the children by moving them from one place to another, hiding them from authorities as if they were little criminals, they also broke the law on many accounts in the process.
I also found out that the last message Rachel had replied to me on the 1st of January 2019 telling me I cannot speak to the kids and that the kids were having dinner was not true. She was already out of the country and not with the kids, without informing me where they are or who they are staying with, not allowing me any contact with them, ever since.
The police contacted the grandmother since she was currently taking care of the kids, and warned her, asking that she surrender the passports and let me see the kids immediately, which she refused. The judge gave me temporary emergency custody, which the grandmother also refused to comply with and was later arrested on the 24th of July 2019 and given seven days to hand over the kids or face jail time.
On July 28th, 2019, I was contacted by one of the newspapers from the USA (Hartford Courant) requesting some information about the case, which I simply replied to by saying that Rachel and her mother had broken the law and are trying to kidnap my kids. I also informed them that she had been hiding the kids and keeping them out of school, which is a criminal offense in the UAE. Unfortunately, none of which was mentioned in the article.
The article was published on the 30th of July 2019, where Rachel mentioned that her mother’s arrest and that “the U.S. Embassy refused to interfere with the Judicial System in the UAE and the office of Senator Chris Murphy and Mayor Luke Bronin are working with their contacts”. The Mayor “who is a close friend of the family as Nancy Grot was his first Landlord” according to the Hartford Courant article. She added that he –the Mayor-had “sent a memo to foreign-policy counterpart in D.C. and also updated the Senator directly on this situation.”
The article also mentions a quote from Rachel’s partner from when Nancy was called by the police to surrender the passports and the kids and comply with court rulings and was later arrested. He said, “The police had asked Grot to come to the station, assuring her they only wanted a statement” while failing to mention the numerous police attempts to try and locate the children and retrieve their passports as ordered by the courts. Rachel’s partner accused Abu Dhabi police, “We’ve been tricked,” Watson’s second husband messaged her after Grot was detained.” as per the article.
The article achieved her objective to stir up public opinion as Rachel mentioned in the follow-up article, “officials in Abu Dhabi pay close attention to how the Emirate is portrayed internationally.” Shortly after and whilst the custody case was going on, Rachel was able to come to the UAE on 1st August and leave on the 4th August with both kids despite arrest warrants and court orders.
According to Hartford Courant, the article mentioned a statement of the court spokesperson, “Hesham Elrafei, said in emails on Sunday that Watson’s story turned the tide. The article helped us to spot the problem and resolve it — I’m glad the family is now reunited,” Elrafei wrote on Sunday afternoon.” I find it difficult to believe that the UAE Judicial system does work on getting evidence after reading articles on the news; in fact, they work with evidence-based on the investigation presented to them. The same court that previously ruled against Rachel and her mother continues to do so.
Hartford Courant published the victory news on the 5th of August 2019, giving credit to the media and the pressure from Washington. In the victory article, they mentioned that they had won a custody battle in UAE, which was not true as they fled before the decisions were made. The custody battle was never won, as the decisions were not in her favor. Also, they did not mention all the ongoing cases as they knew they would lose. She and her mother needed to get out of the country as soon as possible, which they were able to do and according to them “thanks to the #media and Washington for helping them”. In case you think it’s the only lie she used to accomplish her dirty plan, you are mistaken.
Rachel was married three times between 2007 and 2016 and had a daughter with her current partner. She is on her 3rd marriage (as a second wife) to her current partner who is already married to another wife and children (as this is permissible in Islam) and not “the second marriage” as she mentioned in her article; “She has landed a well-paying job and is raising her third child, a daughter, Dalia, 2, whom she had with her second husband. He has remained in Abu Dhabi, where he is an executive in the hospitality industry”. Her current partner is a national of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
To top it all off, she even managed to cancel my sponsorship for the children’s residency immediately after her secret divorce. She was not able to file for residency again because neither Rachel nor her partner was qualified to sponsor anyone, as Rachel herself was residing under a tourist visa and had to leave the country every three months to renew her tourist visa. This led to the children residing without a visa as her husband was not able to sponsor her or the children. She later blames me in the articles for her actions, “The kids have not been in school since December. They have not been able to attend because they no longer have a valid residency visa,’ Watson said.” “Me and the kids got through immigration after paying 40,800 Dirhams (about $12,000) in fines for overstaying their visas.”
They mentioned in the article that I submitted a request for custody in July and in August, she won a custody case – which is not possible given the short time period “In July, her ex-husband submitted a request for custody of the children.”
The article mentioned the hearing in these words:
“A judge in Abu Dhabi ruled Sunday that Watson’s ex-husband, who lives in Oman and owes Watson tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent child support, no longer, had the standing to restrict the travel of the children. He had successfully won three separate orders banning their travel, but publicity about Watson’s case seemed to help her cause.” There is no child support if there is no divorce. She never mentioned the divorce, nor any divorce proceedings to me at any point of time. That is why the whole decision was canceled by the court including custody, divorce, and alimony.
I was never there nor was the lawyer or the Omani embassy. The children were so attached to their family in Oman, especially their grandmother, who is old, and asking for the children every day.
However, on the positive side, on March 22nd, 2020, the family prosecution court in Abu Dhabi found Nancy Grot and Rachel Watson guilty of kidnapping the children out of the country and fined them, including court fees. However, since that still didn’t bring my kids back, it didn’t make much of a difference.
Rachel managed to present an old verdict to Abu Dhabi court, which she had received after secretly filing for divorce, custody and alimony in Dubai in 2012 (which I found out about during the current events) after which she got secretly married to another man. However, she failed to mention to the news agency the court verdict from the Dubai court had been re-opened after 7 years and later revoked. Since Dubai courts and Abu Dhabi courts work independently, it was not cross-checked during the process, and I was only able to point it out when Rachel and the kids were already gone.
I was not kept aware of or involved in the process of relocating my own children; I was not even notified to be present in the court hearing mentioned in the news article on the day of their departure nor was the Omani embassy, although I happened to be present in court following up on other court orders.
On 29th September 2019, the court in Abu Dhabi issued a fine and payment of all legal fees for Nancy Grot (the grandmother) for refusing to bring the kids to me and later issued an arrest warrant for her. On 27th January 2020, the court in Dubai confirmed that it has jurisdiction of the case and the children regardless of them being kidnapped and taken to the U.S.
Please share and help spread the word in the hope that the U.S. Government will do the right thing and return the children to their habitual residence. There is an arrest warrant issued for the grandmother Nancy who was arrested before (on which the U.S. Embassy refused to interfere until the article was published in the USA). The article mentioned her arrest, without mentioning the ongoing cases including custody, alimony, divorce, refusing to surrender the children and their original passports, as ordered by the courts as well as refraining from taking the kids to school and providing them with their most basic right to an education, for over 8 months.
Since Rachel Watson was outside the country from December 25th, 2018, with a similar arrest warrant, Nancy Grot was given seven days to comply with the court orders; however, she managed to flee the country without doing so. “But her mother was not with them. Despite the court victory, there remained a hold on Grot as a person” ‘wanted for questioning in a case,’ “Watson said.
My heart aches every time I think about it. Basically, this is more than abduction and alienation as they had planned the escape all along. Rachel knew it very well that my kids love me and didn’t want to leave (as my daughter locked herself in my car refusing to go with her mother since she knew of her plans). She begged me on her last visit to Oman almost every day not to let her go back to her mother, and I wish I knew that there was no reasoning with her nor the courts would be of much help. I did not want to be that person who keeps a child from their parent and hoped that she would come to her senses and do the right thing. I did not even get a chance to hug my kids and say goodbye, nor do I know their whereabouts or how I could reach them. Can you even imagine how painful all of this is?
I have tried to call the only number I had, which is Nancy’s and Arnold Grot’s (the grandparents) in Glastonbury, Connecticut, many times without any response. I have also sent emails to the whole family, including Rachel, without any positive outcome.
I also requested an international mediation group to intervene, who had tried to contact Rachel in order to know the whereabouts of my children and at least encourage her to let me speak to them (as I was not even able to say goodbye to them since everything happened so unexpectedly). Unfortunately, she responded by saying that she is “not willing to try any mediation at this stage”.
Moreover, I contacted the news agency that published the news article (Hartford Courant) that led Washington to put pressure on the U.S. Embassy in UAE to do a follow-up story. So far I haven’t received any response from them.
The kidnapping was made possible after the Hartford Courant published an article that delivered unauthentic knowledge to the audience. The Hartford Courant also mentioned the involvement of Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin “who is a very close friend of the grandmother” which led to the biased nature of the article.
Lastly, the Hartford Courant mentioned the involvement of the office of Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy in helping Rachel and Grot leave with the children from UAE without knowing any background of the case or respecting the US embassy which chose to stay away from the case. I sent emails to both Senator Chris Murphy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin but, unfortunately, never got a response back.
Update: The custody judgment (that was mentioned by the Mayor in the news article published on the 30th July 2019 and August 5th 2019 – which was still ongoing at the time) has been finally ruled upon on the 6th of April 2021 on which the Judge in the UAE awarded full custody of the children to the father. The mother appealed and lost again for the third time on the 8th of June 2021.
In a nutshell, I have tried everything I could possibly do and there is still no positive news. I request you all to help me by signing the petition https://www.change.org/JusticeForSabriyaAndAdil and sharing my side of the story; it would mean everything to me. All I need in life now is to hold my kids tight and tell them how much I love them. Please share and help us find the exact location of the kids.