In 2009, I married Rachel Watson in the United Arab Emirates. Over the next two years, we had two beautiful children – Sabriya Al Namani and Adil Al Namani. The year after we had Adil, my wife and I made the painful decision to separate. For the sake of my wife’s reputation, I will not go into details. The agreement was that I would move to Oman for work, while she and the children would stay in Dubai, where we currently resided.
Even though Rachel moved on and found someone else, we maintained a healthy, loving relationship. I remained close with my children, as did my family, and visits were frequent. I was able to spend many special occasions with them, including holidays.
In November of 2018, six years after my wife and I separated, everything changed. I discovered notes that my children had been sending to my sister’s WhatsApp group. In these messages, they talked about how they were leaving for America soon. Their mother had already gotten a job in the States and the children were enrolled in school. I knew about none of this. To say that I was blindsided is an absolute understatement. After six years of peaceful, loving co-existence, my world had been turned upside down in a matter of minutes.
I decided that the best course of action was to ask my daughter about it. I understandably had difficulty trusting Rachel at this point. Sabriya not only confirmed that they were moving to the United States, but also that she was instructed not to tell anyone about the move, not even me, her father. I later found out through online buy and sell ads that Rachel was selling off everything from our home. Again, this happened without ever consulting me.
Watching things spiral out of control and having no way to stop them, I sought legal counsel. It wasn’t cheap. I had to make great sacrifices to raise the money, but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my children. I can’t put into words how much I wish I could’ve simply spoken to Rachel and resolved this, but after hearing that my daughter was told not to tell anyone about the move, it was abundantly clear that the plan was to flee the country without me ever knowing.
My lawyer’s first recommendation was to immediately apply for a travel ban for the children. This would keep them in the UAE, at least temporarily, and buy me time to discuss things with Rachel and reach some sort of resolution. I applied, because I had no idea how soon Rachel planned to leave, and the thought of my children being dragged halfway across the world terrified me.
I was able to temporarily see my children. They came to Oman on November 30, 2018, and stayed until December 4, when their mother came to pick them up. My daughter locked herself in the car, refusing to go with her mother. She did not want to move. I told her not to worry, that she would be back in Oman in three days for the scheduled sit-down I had arranged with Rachel.
I was certain that we’d be able to work something out. Even after we separated, Rachel and I had remained on good terms. We got along and we both wanted what was best for the children. I still can’t believe how wrong I was. We didn’t reach a solution that day. Instead, that was the last time I saw my children to this day.
Rachel completely cut off contact. I couldn’t get a hold of my children, no matter how hard I tried. Meanwhile, a Dubai court granted my travel ban and ordered Rachel to surrender the children’s passports to me. I flew to Abu Dhabi to discuss matters with Rachel. She was furious. She told me that she was going to hire the best lawyers in the UAE to fight the travel ban, she was going to take the children whether I agreed or not and that I was never going to see them again.
I later found out that Rachel had remarried in 2017 and had already had another daughter with her new husband. Furthermore, I discovered that she had opened a case against me in 2012, the year we separated, and was granted a divorce, alimony, and custody of the children. I was never made aware of this, so in the eyes of the court, I was simply negligent and absent. I also lost my sponsorship for the children’s residency because of this court ruling. Neither Rachel nor her current partner was eligible to sponsor them, Rachel being in the country on a tourist visa that had to be renewed every three months. She later blamed me for the situation, saying that she had to ultimately pay $12,000 in fines for the children overstaying their visas.
Again, I can’t possibly be at fault, as she purposely hid the divorce, alimony, and custody hearing from me. I had no idea that my sponsorship of the children was no longer valid.
I immediately appealed the case and filed for custody. I informed the court that I was never served notice, which was easy to prove, as Rachel had given them our address in the UAE as a way to contact me and I had more than sufficient proof that I was living in Oman at the time. In addition, Rachel and I were in constant contact during the entire ordeal, so it was abundantly clear that she was purposely keeping me in the dark.
After providing all of this information to the court, they cancelled the earlier ruling granting Rachel custody, alimony, and divorce. Despite this, Rachel and her mother, Nancy Grot, fled the country with my children, as well as Rachel’s daughter from her subsequent marriage.
Allow me to go back a bit.
In June 2019, an Abu Dhabi court (where Rachel was living at the time) ordered Rachel to let me see my children. We didn’t find out until later that Rachel wasn’t even in the country at the time. She had left the children alone in the UAE since December 25th, 2018, and later her mother came, who constantly kept changing her location and evading both police and social workers to keep the children hidden.
The UAE courts issued an arrest warrant for Rachel. We also learned that Rachel and her mother had kept the children out of school for almost a full year, which is a criminal offense in the UAE. Eventually, after Rachel’s mother had continuously refused to let me see my children, the judge granted me temporary emergency custody. When she still refused to comply, she was arrested on July 24, 2019. She was released and given seven days to hand over the kids or action would be taken against her. She did not comply, and in September, the court in Abu Dhabi issued a fine against her and then later issued an arrest warrant.
A few days after the custody order, I was contacted by the Hartford Courant, a US newspaper located in Connecticut, where Rachel’s parents live. They asked me about the case and I told them the truth: Rachel and her mother were trying to kidnap my kids. They refused to let me see them, keeping them hidden even from the police, and they’d taken them out of school. When the article was published two days later, it mentioned none of this.
Instead, the article had several quotes from Rachel, who talked about her mother’s arrest and how the US Embassy refused to interfere. She also claimed that Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin were working with their contacts and that the mayor had sent a memo to a foreign-policy counterpart in Washington D.C. The writer of the article also saw fit to mention that the mayor was a close, personal friend of Nancy Grot and her family. Rachel then accused the Abu Dhabi police of deceiving Nancy Grot, calling her down to the police station for nothing more than a statement before unexpectedly detaining her.
If Rachel’s goal was to manipulate the UAE into helping her cause by casting them in a bad light, it worked. A court spokesperson was quoted as saying that Rachel’s story “turned the tide.” On August 1, 2019, she was able to enter the UAE. Three days later, she fled the country with my children, violating not only court orders but arrest warrants as well.
The Hartford Courant published another piece on August 5, seemingly celebrating the “victory” that Rachel had won. The article credited the media and the pressure from Washington for helping Rachel get the children to the United States. The paper also erroneously reported that Rachel had won the custody battle in the UAE. In reality, she fled the country before the court had made any decisions. Any prior custody decisions were not in her favor. They also neglected to mention the myriad of ongoing cases that had yet to be resolved.
On April 6, 2021, the UAE court ruled in my favor, granting me full custody of the children. Rachel appealed, for the third time. On June 8, she lost her appeal. Unfortunately, Rachel simply defied the courts and ignored the ruling, just as she had ignored everything up until this point. While I am grateful for the court’s decision, it didn’t change the situation whatsoever.
The article went on to mention the delinquent child support that I supposedly owed.
“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.”
The child support mentioned in the article was cancelled as soon as I was able to prove that, when Rachel had filed for divorce, alimony, and custody, she had purposely withheld my address so that the courts could not find me. I was never present for these hearings, neither was my lawyer or even the Omani embassy because they were held without our knowledge.
On March 22, 2020, the family prosecution court in Abu Dhabi found Nancy Grot and Rachel Watson guilty of kidnapping my children and taking them out of the country. I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record but, again, if Rachel has no intention of complying with the court’s ruling, it doesn’t affect my situation. I still don’t have my children.
I learned that Rachel had fooled the Abu Dhabi court by presenting the 2012 decision from the Dubai court that granted her custody. Of course, she didn’t mention that the case had been re-opened years later once I became aware and made my case. Abu Dhabi and Dubai courts operate independently, so the Abu Dhabi court was not informed that the ruling had been overturned. I was able to bring it to their attention, but by that time, it was too late. Rachel had already left the country with the children.
Throughout this entire ordeal, as Rachel was dealing with the various courts, I was never made aware, so I was never able to be part of the process. If I were, I would’ve been able to argue my case. More importantly, I may have gotten to see my children. As of January 2020, the court in Dubai confirmed that, although the children are currently (as far as we’re aware) in the United States, Dubai still has jurisdiction of the case. That’s where we stand right now.
First of all, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to anyone who has taken the time to read my story. I tried to speak about the facts and less about my personal feelings, partly because I believe the facts are what are important, but also because I can’t possibly put into words what this has done to me. As any parent can attest, your children are your entire world, and these past few years have been one long, waking nightmare. My heart aches every day and it only gets worse as time goes on.
While this was all happening, I was panicking, scrambling to keep up with what was going on, desperately trying to make sense of everything. Now that the dust has settled, I’m able to see this for what it is.
Rachel didn’t want to be with me. She didn’t want my children with me. She knew that my children didn’t want to leave, however, as evidenced by the incident in which my daughter locked herself in the car. My daughter would beg me not to send her back to her mother, but I would chalk that up to childhood rebellion. I never wanted to keep the children from their mother. Had I known what was about to transpire, that I wouldn’t see my children for what will be three years in December, I may have acted differently. Instead, I chose to believe that Rachel would be reasonable, that even if she wanted nothing to do with me, she wouldn’t willingly destroy our family. I believed that she wanted what was best for our children.
I was wrong about everything.
The forethought with which this was planned out makes me sick to my stomach. Not only were my children abducted, but the absolute refusal to allow me any sort of contact, no matter how brief, is a clear sign that the goal is complete alienation. What makes it so much worse is that, for all I know, it’s worked. How will my children react when I’m able to see them again?
I have exhausted all of my options. The only phone number that I have is for Nancy and Arnold Grot, Rachel’s parents. I’ve called several times. Most of my calls are ignored, and any time I do contact someone, there’s nothing accomplished. I’ve also emailed several family members, but haven’t managed even an inch of progress.
I reached out to an international group that specializes in mediating family conflicts. They agreed to help and contacted Rachel to find out where my children are. They also requested, at the very least, that I be able to speak to them. Rachel informed them that she is not currently willing to try any mediation. I don’t know if that means she might be open to it eventually or if it’s simply something she told them to get them off her back.
I also contacted the Hartford Courant and requested that they follow up with another article on the situation. I’ve made it clear to them that their articles have been misleading and rife with misinformation and I’ve implored them to look into the facts of the case. I’ve yet to hear back from them and I hold little hope.
Lastly, I’ve reached out to both Senator Chris Murphy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, both of whom were instrumental in getting my children to the United States. Even the US Embassy in the United Arab Emirates declined to intervene on behalf of Rachel, recognizing that what she was attempting to do was unlawful.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my story. If you’re so inclined, please share it on social media and spread the word about Sabriya Al Namani and Adil Al Namani, two children who were wrongly ripped away from their father and dragged across the world like fugitives from the law.
Help me fight a deliberate campaign of misinformation designed to help my Rachel hide my children from me. Help me shine a light on the actions of Senator Chris Murphy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, whom I believe abused the power of their offices to grant personal favors.
Help me see my children again. Please sign and share the petition hopefully justice for the children will be served https://www.change.org/JusticeForSabriyaAndAdil