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Rifqa Bary--Another hearing, another month closer to 18

Good news for now for Rifqa Bary. (See also here.) She can celebrate Christmas without, for now, being returned to her parents, or to Sri Lanka. The Ohio Children's Services continues to manage her case, and there will be another hearing on January 19. This case is a marathon, folks, and it isn't going to be over until the proverbial fat lady sings--that is, until Rifqa turns eighteen on August 10, 2010. Then, if she is still in the United States and safe, she can begin thinking about what to do with her life, how to stay safe from the Muslim community, and how to deal with her immigration situation.

The magistrate ruled that she does not have to have mediation meetings with her parents. Her parents were trying to have her ordered to forced meetings with them. It's a good sign, as far as as it goes, that the magistrate (I gather, a kind of assistant judge) would not order this, as that (hopefully) bodes well for her not being forced to go back and live with them.

The Grinch--aka Tarazi, the CAIR-affiliated lawyer, evidently realized the lead-balloon qualities of his motion to have all her Christmas cards seized and withdrew it. Negative publicity does help.

Evidently some sort of counselor is trying to determine whether Rifqa has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is the first I've heard of this. If she were so diagnosed, that would look pretty bad for her parents (normal teenagers should not have PTSD from living with their families). On the other hand, it might be used as an excuse for not listening to her or for ordering her medicated against her wishes, so all in all, I think it would be better if it were dropped.

Issues that remain unresolved or that I have not been able to hear of any resolution on:

--Her status as a "wayward" (incorrigible) child, which her parents had attempted to have declared. Evidently, that remains hanging.

--Her ability to communicate with the outside world. The last update from Jamal Jivanjee (go here and click on "Rifqa Bary Update" on the sidebar) indicated that someone (I couldn't tell who) was telling him a lot of baloney to the effect that no minors in foster care in Ohio or anywhere else in the country can ever have visitors--a manifest falsehood, since Jamal and others freely visited Rifqa in Florida. This seemed to mean that no move would be made to change her status of being held without visitors in foster care, and I have heard nothing to the contrary. Nor have I heard any good news in the area of her being able to use the Internet or telephone freely. These were privileges withdrawn immediately upon her being returned to Ohio. It appears that she is allowed to receive physical letters (see the Christmas cards) and possibly to write physical letters, though the latter is an inference on my part.

--Her status as a "dependent child." Pastor Jamal Jivanjee clearly considers that it is to her benefit, legally, to be declared a dependent child by the court. Evidently (though I don't fully understand the legalities of this) that declaration would make it somewhat less likely that she would be returned to her parents, though it would still lie with the discretion of the court. (Such is my perception.) That matter was not decided at this hearing, rather surprisingly. That is apparently the reason for the hearing on January 19th. Atlas reports that the parents are now fighting a dependency declaration, so this confirms that a dependency declaration would be a good thing for Rifqa from the perspective of keeping her from her family.

--The issue of forced counseling from a Muslim. The Jawa Report (which claims to have a source funneling information from inside CAIR) discovered that someone or other has picked out a Muslim counselor for Rifqa and that her parents' lawyer wanted to have her held in contempt of court for refusing to meet with this counselor. What a coincidence, huh, that the chosen counselor should be a Muslim? I haven't been able to hear anything about whether this issue even came up at the hearing today.

I'm beginning to take cautious hope in this case. Every month that passes makes it marginally less likely that the courts will forcibly return her to her family. While it would in principle be possible for them to do so immediately before her 18th birthday, it would, shall we say, look bad. She has eight months to go. I take it as a good sign that the court did not order forced meetings with the parents. I ask that those who are praying for Rifqa not grow weary in well-doing, as she still has months of uncertainty before her and a life to work out after that, while still very young and in a tenuous legal position in this country. (Rifqa's parents let their visas expire, so both she, who was brought in on her mother's visa, and they, are now here illegally.)

Here's wishing a merry Christmas to Rifqa, even though she can't read it.