Woman gains refuge in NZ from 'bully' mother-in-law

2:05 pm on 1 May 2017

A woman who fled Jordan, claiming that her mother-in-law abused her so badly she needed to seek asylum in New Zealand, has been granted refugee status.

A young woman stands in silhouette against a window.

Photo: 123RF

The woman said her mother-in-law was a manipulative bully who hit her with a stick, decided when she could sleep with her husband and tried to get her to miscarry her baby.

She told the Immigration and Protection Tribunal her mother-in-law was furious she had escaped and would kill her on her return because it had offended the honour of the family.

Read the full decision (PDF, 319KB

The tribunal's notes of her account said the mother-in-law became verbally abusive towards her, making insulting and derogatory comments.

"She was also violent towards the appellant and regularly used a stick, which she called by the appellant's name, to hit her," the tribunal said.

The mother-in-law "interfered" with the woman's married life by dictating when she could share a bed with her husband.

"When the appellant fell pregnant, this further enraged the mother-in-law who tried to induce a miscarriage through hitting the appellant on her stomach with the stick.

"Her mother-in-law also made her stand in a corner and jump and pressured her to take medication to induce a miscarriage. The appellant refused to do so."

Her husband tried to defend her from his mother, the woman told the tribunal.

However, his mother ran the household through a mixture of fear and intimidation and, as the only one in the family with Jordanian citizenship, she threatened to have him deported to Egypt.

A clinical psychologist from Refugees as Survivors said the woman suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder, and if she returned to Jordan to the same conditions, there was a very high risk of her attempting to commit suicide.

The tribunal found the woman was an unreliable witness but said the core elements of her account were credible.

It was also told of an inheritance dispute with an uncle in which he threatened her brother with a gun and placed pressure on other relatives to sign documents to allow him control of her late father's estate.

It accepted there was a real chance she would be subjected to physical and emotional or psychological violence from the uncle to restore the family's "honour".

The woman also feared for her six-year-old son still living with her husband, who said the boy had been sent to work in a bakery by the mother-in-law.

"The appellant also witnessed her son being regularly hit by her mother-in-law and other family members," the tribunal said. "On one occasion when he was very young she recalled him being encouraged to smoke."

She was sent a photograph of him with a burn mark on his arm. A relative "had sent her son out to buy a pack of cigarettes and when he returned with the wrong brand, stubbed a lit cigarette out on him in punishment. He then forwarded a picture of this to the appellant".

She told the tribunal she believed these "torments" were being inflicted on her son to force her to come home.

"Her mother-in-law is furious with her for leaving Jordan," it said.

"It has offended the honour of the family that she left without permission and they will kill her on her return."

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