UK mum has 94k legal debt after unjust sharia case

My name is Afsana.  I’m a British woman whose beloved son was taken away in Dubai. 

In 2012 my French Catholic husband used Dubai’s sharia court system to divorce me. The court took my beautiful boy Louis away and I've spent the last 8 years fighting legal battles in 3 countries to be reunited with him.

The sharia divorce stated that I had ‘refused to obey my husband’ and I was a negligent mother because Louis had eczema.  

I took my case to the British courts looking for justice, but a High Court judge accepted the sharia divorce granted by a ‘friendly nation.’
In France, the Supreme Court ruled exactly the opposite and threw out the ‘manifestly discriminatory’ Dubai decision. The UN has also condemned the way Dubai courts treat women. 

But, in a highly unusual move, the judge in London ordered me to pay my ex-husband’s legal costs. I’m now facing a bill of £93,867.96 and the threat of losing my home.

If you think it’s unacceptable in modern Britain that I should be made bankrupt - because I fought to have a relationship with my young son, and because I fought against Dubai’s sharia system - please give any help you can.  

I have only a couple of months to raise the money I need. 

Thank you. 



I’m just a normal person trapped in horrible circumstances.  And my faith in British justice has been badly shaken.

I came back to this country with nothing except the hope of a fair hearing.

But the British judge googled Dubai’s sharia legal system and concluded it was similar to our own divorce laws.

I had reported domestic abuse to the Dubai authorities and provided the British court with evidence of abuse and coercive control. But the judge said I didn’t look or behave like a victim.

He took no account of the fact that I lost my son when he was just three years old. The only thing I gained from the British court case was six hours a year to be with Louis, in a tiny room in London under strict supervision.

 The judge accepted that I had been thrown out of the marital home in Dubai. My husband cut off all financial support and until my son was taken away we were homeless and living off charitable handouts.

The judge also accepted that I had PTSD as a result of what happened to me in Dubai. Back in London, I had no job or income.

But he still said I had to pay costs.

If I don't pay, I am threatened with bankruptcy and the loss of my family home.  After everything I have endured, this is too cruel. But I will never stop fighting for Louis.

Earlier this year the High Court in London ruled against Dubai's billionaire ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, suggesting his former wife Princess Haya could never get a fair hearing in Dubai's sharia system. 

If it’s not fair for a princess, how can it possibly be fair for me? And how can British and French courts come to such different conclusions about my case? 

Please take a few minutes to read my story. It explains why the costs order is unjust and why I need your help.

 It also raises fundamental questions about British justice.


I'm Afsana Lachaux, and I'm a Londoner. I'm a mother, a social policy expert and an activist for women’s rights. In 2019 I won the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize for my work in campaigning for justice and protection of women.

After I lobbied extensively, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office changed its travel advice, to warn British women that they could face sharia court custody proceedings in the United Arab Emirates.

It was something that never occurred to me when I first moved to Dubai.

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