BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A Western New York father has been arrested on charges he conspired with his son to force his daughter into an arranged marriage in Yemen.
Khaled Abughanem, 50, and Waleed Abughanem, 32, both of Lackawanna, NY, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to kidnap persons in a foreign country. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Investigators believe the woman was tricked into traveling from her home near Buffalo to Yemen where her father proposed a marriage for which he would be paid $500,000. When she refused, she was physically assaulted and her father and brother discussed killing her if she did not comply, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman, identified only as Victim 1, had run off to Mexico in September 2021 to get married before her family returned her against her will to the United States.
According to the victim, her father said "she would be traveling outside the United States whether she liked it or not, or he would bury her in the backyard," the complaint said.
When she tried to flee the family home she discovered all doors had been locked. She was forced to withdraw as a student from the University at Buffalo and lost access to the internet.
"According to Victim 1, from on or about September 10, Victim 1 was under constant threat of harm, restricted to the Abughanem residence, and not allowed to leave or have any contact with anyone except family," the complaint said.
Her mother insisted she travel with the family to Egypt or else "they would keep her locked in the Buffalo home without contact with the outside world forever. They told her no one would even help her, including the police," the complaint said.
According to investigators, Victim 1 did not know her family planned to traffic her to Yemen for the forced marriage. During her confinement she was forced to take a "virginity test" and was thrown into the stairs by her father, according to the complaint.
The victim's fiancé called police several times only to find out the woman had traveled to Sanaa where the FBI believes she is being held against her will by relatives.
According to the victim, her father said "you are no longer in the West, you are in the Middle East, women like you are killed," the complaint said. "I am in Yemen now, no one can judge me or hold me accountable," the complaint quoted Khaled Abughanem telling his daughter.
The criminal complaint quoted text messages between father and son after Waleed Abughanem returned to the United States from Yemen in late 2022.