Teen escapes Saudi Arabia

Presented with an opportunity, the 19-year-old takes a chance and leaves her father’s home.

January 24, 2008|By Mary O’Keefe

As Mary Gant was being recognized at last week’s La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce awards dinner as a chamber ambassador, her thoughts no doubt were more focused on her granddaughter and the harrowing adventure she had just completed.

Nineteen-year-old Summer Gant had finally been reunited with her mother and grandparents a few days earlier after escaping from Saudi Arabia.

Sophocles said, “Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.” The bond between a mother and her child has been the foundation of novels and poetry throughout the centuries. It is a bond that is often tested by the normal day-to-day life of raising children but in some cases the strength of that bond is pushed to unimaginable limits. In the case of Summer’s mother Brenda and their family friends, the power of loyalty and love reunited them after a year and a half apart.


Brenda and her husband lived with their four children for many years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. During that time Brenda worked at several jobs and made friends. Then, 11 years ago, her husband decided to move their two daughters to his family home 400 miles away.

“This wasn’t a tradition,” Brenda said. “It was just something my husband did.”

Brenda said she stayed married to her husband of 20 years even after he took daughters away, in hopes that she could have some contact them. Mother and daughters were able to see each other once in awhile and although it wasn’t the best situation, at least she still had contact.

A year and a half ago, Brenda traveled with her son Omar back to California to visit her parents and decided to stay here. It wasn’t planned, but she felt that it was the right time to make the change. From that point on, she tried to find a way to get her children back with her. Summer, who was the only of her children born in the United States, wanted to come to America. Brenda and her parents worked through friends, family and officials to find options to get the children to America.

“Many friends in La Cañada helped,” Mary said.

Brenda and her parents e-mailed family and friends and asked them to contact anyone that could help them with the children.

“We asked them to contact anyone, specifically President Bush and government officials that could press the Saudis,” Brenda said.

Mary said, she was surprised at how many people came to their aid. “Many people responded immediately.”

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