For months, Turkish television viewers have been gripped by an extraordinary tale of international kidnapping; of a wife trapped between two “husbands”, when choosing one would mean the death of the other.
The story began on the July 2, 1990. Fahire Kara, mother of 12, had travelled from her home in Batman, Turkey on pilgrimmage with her husband Abdoullah to Mecca. That day, their lives, like so many others, would change for ever.
As thousands of pilgrims passed through a tunnel linking the Grand Mosque with the Mina Desert, a panic began, leading to a stampede. A total of 1,426 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated, including almost 450 Turks. Seriously injured, Abdullah stumbled through the carnage and piles of bodies, searching for his wife. He found her on the point of death, saying the Muslim creed to cleanse her soul.
As rescuers arrived, the couple were separated as Abdoullah was rushed to hospital. On being discharged from hospital, Abdoullah once again began a grisly search for his wife, examining bodies in morgues and visiting hospitals, this time without success. He returned home in mourning.
When Fahire’s children first heard the rumours about a Turkish souvenir seller telling an incredible story to pilgrims at Mecca, at first they paid little attention.
But as more details emerged, the tale became increasingly intriguing. The woman was claiming she had been kidnapped and pleading for help with finding her true family.
The Kara family turned to investigative journalist Müge Anlı, who presents a TV show about missing people, to find out once and for all whether there was a link between the mysterious souvenir seller and their mother.
The evidence began to mount, more testimonies began to emerge about a Yemeni man and his Turkish wife. A picture began to emerge that allowed Anlı to reconstruct the incredible story of Fahire and uncover the horrifying choice she would have to make.
When the authorities in Mecca first learned of the incident in the tunnel, they had been unprepared for anything of such magnitude. Scrambling to summon a response they called to action all municipal workers from the surrounding district to support the rescue operation. So when a local rubbish collector turned up at the site and left with a woman he said he was taking to hospital, in the chaos and disorganisation there was no reason to check or doubt his claim.
In fact Fahire was taken to a house in Medina where she was imprisoned for six years. She was allowed out of the house only after becoming pregnant and giving birth to what would be the first of three children with her new “husband”.
Finally she caught wind of the international hunt on the television, and yet did nothing to make her situation known or return to her first family.
Why not? Because she has become trapped in a catch-22 of Saudi Arabian law. Should she attempt to leave her new home, she would have to either:
- Denounce her kidnapper, which would mean drawing a sentence of public execution on the father of her three youngest children.
- Admit to adultery, which would subject her to a punishment of stoning to death
Diplomatic efforts are reported underway to find a solution which would allow her to return to Turkey without destroying the family she has formed in Saudi Arabia.