Have you heard yet about Matthew and Grace Huang, the American couple jailed in Qatar since January of this year? No? neither had I. Now that I have, I’m compelled to share their story.
Matt and Grace’s adopted daughter, Gloria, died suddenly on January 15th, 2013 for reasons unknown.The next day, Matt and Grace were jailed in Doha, Qatar and charged with her murder.The California Innocence Project has since taken on their case.
The Huangs are Asian-American with three children adopted from Africa. According to the investigative report, they could not have had a legitimate reason to adopt children who were not “good-looking” and who did not share their “hereditary traits.”.
But there’s more. The investigative reports theorize that Matthew and Grace “bought” their children in order to harvest their organs, or perhaps to perform medical experiments on them.
Did I mention this was in writing? By government officials? It’s one thing to have suspicions, gossip or ask grieving parents inappropriate and prying questions. But to write it down in an official report? This signals a culture difference that most Americans probably can’t wrap their heads around. However, it’s really American culture that is abnormal, not Qatar’s.
The U.S. has more adoptions than all other countries combined. Most countries in the Middle East don’t have any legal proceedings that would allow for adoption (needless to say they are not a Hague Adoption Country). The concept is just that foreign. Kathryn Joyce recently wrote a fascinating book on the American Christian adoption movement, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. I would highly recommend reading it.
Complicating matters, Qatar is a Muslim country, and Islamic law doesn’t recognize adoption. Adoption isn’t forbidden — it just doesn’t make much sense. Blood ties determine everything: marriage, inheritance, and one’s spiritual and physical place in the world. An exchange of papers doesn’t reset a person’s biological family. As an adoptee and (almost) adoptive parent, adoption has always been imbedded in my worldview. I really have to strain to consider a culture that considers the relationship I have with my parents and that with my daughter as foreign.
The autopsy report on 8-year-old Gloria is confusing and continues to be debated. Gloria, adopted from Ghana, had eating issues that are common in children from countries with poor food security. Having worked with the World Food Program and UNHCR in Ghana, much of my time was focused on attempting to treat children with feeding disorders. I watched dozens of children sit daily, for hours during the supplemental feeding visits, refusing to eat. The reasons vary and are too numerous to list.
I don’t know what happened to little Gloria, but it’s easy to imagine that this transracial family was so odd, and their claim of relation so bizarre in the context of this tiny Middle Eastern country, The Huangs were wrongly accused.
Photo Credit: California Innocence Project
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