A North Vancouver man who married a woman in Iran via Skype has failed in a bid to have the marriage annulled.
According to a written ruling in B.C. Supreme Court, Maryam Natanj and Gholamabbas Nasiri were chosen by their parents in Iran for an arranged marriage despite Nasiri living and working in Canada.
When he returned to Iran to visit family in March 2009, the two went on a few “dates” chaperoned by family members. The two kept in touch over the phone and via the internet with an eye to Nasiri returning to Iran in December of that year, according to the judge’s decision, at which time, if they still liked each other, they would plan their marriage.
Instead, the couple hurried things along and on May 3, 2009 the ceremony was held in a marriage commissioner’s office in the town of Shiraz, Iran. About 20 people attended, mostly family members, but Nasiri wasn’t one of them.
“This event did not include what many would expect of a traditional marriage ceremony, namely the physical presence of the groom. Rather, in a ‘new age’ version of the event, Mr. Nasiri remained in Canada and intended to ‘attend’ via a Skype feed on a laptop.”
He got up at 4 a.m. and showered and shaved for the occasion, which started at 5 a.m. Pacific Time. The ceremony itself was “chaotic,” the judge noted.
“Mr. Nasiri describes that the Skype connection was not good. To assist, the audio was provided by someone’s cellular phone which was passed around at times so that various people could talk to Mr. Nasiri, who was also on his cellphone. Often he could not see on the laptop screen who he was speaking to. From time to time, the phone disconnected,” the ruling stated.
At one point, he wrote “YES” on a piece of paper and put it up for view on Skype. Nasiri gave his brother power of attorney to sign the marriage documents on his behalf.
Natanj moved to Canada in early 2010 but after four years, the marriage broke down and the two separated. Natanj sought a divorce along with equal division of family property and debt, enforcement of the Iranian marriage agreement and spousal support.
Nasiri initially sought to have the Iranian marriage declared invalid but later withdrew that argument “despite the unusual manner in which it took place.”
In seeking the annulment, Nasiri accused Natanj of marrying him simply so she could obtain immigration status in Canada for herself and her mother.
Natanj denied that, saying she had better prospects in Iran with 60 to 70 suitors, a job with a good salary and a good life in her mother’s home.
Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick found no evidence that Natanj had been deceptive and stated that both parties knew what they were getting into.
“Despite Mr. Nasiri’s arguments, this was not love at first sight, as the phrase ‘arranged marriage’ would suggest. Some salesmanship was apparent from both sides,” she wrote.
“I accept that part of Ms. Natanj’s motivation for the marriage was her desire to immigrate to Canada. However, this is not a sufficient basis upon which to grant the exceptional remedy of an annulment. … In large part, this arranged marriage was a joining of two families based on nationality, financial matters and a joint culture that both families wished to continue through this couple. Both Ms. Natanj and Mr. Nasiri were fully aware of the background of their union, which they considered to be a sufficient grounding for their marriage and future life together in Canada.”
Instead of an annulment, Fitzpatrick granted the couple a divorce and ruled on the division of some assets, which had been an issue during the 17-day trial.
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