Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Afrah Sheikh Khalid website is headed by the following statement: ‘We do not offer the Misyar marriage’. It is a marriage website that caters to people with special needs and is the first and only of its kind in the world, however it rejects the Misyar marriage [whereby the husband does not have to fulfil his financial responsibilities towards his wife and the couple do not live together].
In Saudi society over recent years, organisations have become more concerned about members of society with special needs. A committee has been formed to coordinate services for disabled individuals and people with other special needs, and has launched a satellite channel that will focus on issues that concern this segment of society.
The Afrah Sheikh Khalid website is just one example of services for people with special needs. So far, it has successfully brought together 48 young men and women from all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Mauritania, Italy, Australia and Morocco.
The website has 1262 registered members; 815 of whom are male and 447 are female.
Abdullah bin Said al Zahrani, the website’s administrator told Asharq Al Awsat that the reason behind the increased number of men in comparison to women is that men have more access to the internet than women. Furthermore, it is difficult to persuade parents of Saudi and non-Saudi women who want to join the marriage website that it is neither wrong nor prohibited in religion.
Zahrani explained that the website does not contain any phone numbers or email addresses [therefore all correspondence is established via the website]. When an agreement is reached, a message is sent to the website administrator requesting the contact details of the female’s guardian and this is the final step involving the website administrator.
Zahrani told Asharq Al Awsat that he was inspired to launch the project to serve members of society who have special needs and to help them find life partners so that they could start families of their own. The website was launched approximately two years ago as an extension of a similar project in Jeddah that is less organized and effective than the website.
Members of the Afrah Sheikh Khalid website suffer from a range of disabilities [such as diabetes, obesity, blindness, deafness, speech disorders, or physical impairments]. Moreover, there are members who have joined the website who have no disabilities or special needs at all. The website does not have any registered members who suffer from mental illnesses.
Zahrani explained that the website is a free service and does not receive any financial support [from members]. It is funded by the website’s supervisor and financier, Khalid Bin Ahmad al Fawaz. Also on the team are supervisory assistant Umm Hatim and the website administrator, al Zahrani, who works as a legitimate marriage official in Jeddah. The whole team works on a voluntary basis.
Al Zahrani told Asharq Al Awsat that the website’s development is one of the prime concerns at the moment and that it hopes to cooperate with the satellite channel that focuses on individuals with special needs that will be launched soon so that there can be a segment for the matchmaking project.