Meriam Al Khalifa
|Meriam Al Khalifa|
|Spouse||Jason Johnson (m. 1999; div. 2004)|
|Father||Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa|
|Born||1980 (age 32–33)
Meriam Al Khalifa (born 1980) is a distant member of the Bahraini royal House of Al-Khalifa. She is known for eloping with a US Marine to the United States, and claiming that she feared honor violence by her family in retaliation. Her story was featured heavily in the American press, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was turned into a television movie.
In January 1999, she met Lance Corporal Jason Johnson, a United States Marine and a Mormon, in a shopping mall in Bahrain. They secretly exchanged letters through a store employee at the mall for eleven months, until Johnson's tour of duty ended.
She and Johnson flew to the United States in November 1999 using forged documents, and were married in a Las Vegas chapel on November 16, 1999, after which she settled into life as a Nevada housewife.
Application for asylum
For his role in helping Al Khalifa flee Bahrain, Johnson was court-martialed, demoted and discharged from the Marines.
Facing charges of illegally entering the United States and deportation proceedings, Al Khalifa applied for political asylum, citing that she faced harm, which could have included death, for her marriage to a non-Muslim and for fleeing her native country. In an interview with CBS News, Johnson and Al Khalifa said that if she returned to Bahrain, she would be "lashed, executed, stoned, killed, shot". Johnson also told the press that there was constant tension with her family, and the FBI told him they had intercepted a Syrian national who claimed he had been paid $500,000 to assassinate her. Based on these fears, Al Khalifa was granted asylum in May 2001.
In 2001, a made-for-TV movie based on the relationship, The Princess and the Marine, aired on NBC. It starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Johnson and Marisol Nichols as Meriam. The movie reportedly "caused one of the biggest bidding wars for packaged rights in the history of television movies," estimated at more than $500,000.
Return to Bahrain and Divorce
Despite her earlier claims that she feared violence or death in her home country – an assertion that she had repeated in subsequent interviews – Al-Khalifa returned to Bahrain in late 2001 to visit her family. She stated that she and her family were concerned about "violence aimed at people of Middle Eastern descent" after the September 11 terrorist attacks. She returned to Las Vegas at the end of year.
The couple filed for divorce on November 17, 2004 (one day after their fifth wedding anniversary) in Las Vegas, Nevada, citing "incompatibility in marriage." According to Johnson, Al Khalifa had plunged heavily into Las Vegas nightlife, and had become estranged. The couple had been considering divorce since 2001.
In 2005, Johnson appeared alone on an episode of Divorce Court to explain his case.
- "Bahraini princess, former Marine divorce". NBC News. Associated Press. 11/30/2004.
- "Made-for-TV marriage of Bahraini princess and former Marine ends in Las Vegas". North County Times.[dead link]
- Princess and ex-marine to divorce, 1 December 2004, BBC News
- Princess-Marine marriage irrevocably over after 5 years, Dec. 1, 2004, Deseret News
- Love Crosses Borders, October 18, 2000, CBS News
- Bahraini princess and US marine end 5-year bond, 2004-12-02, China Daily
- Runaway princess told she can live in America, by Simon Davis in Los Angeles, 26 May 2001, The Telegraph
- The Princess & the Marine (TV 2001) – IMDb
- The Princess and the Marine, IMDB plot summary.
- Hispanic Online article, March 2001; by Katharine A. Diaz.
- National Briefing – West – Nevada – Bahraini Royal Gains Green Card, By Todd S. Purdum (NYT), Published: May 26, 2001, NYTimes.com
- Runaway Princess Bride's Family Relents ABC News, July 25, 2000.
- Marriage on rocks, Bahraini princess who fled to wed Marine goes home, Los Angeles Times, by Tony Perry and Phil Willon, Seattle Times reprint of LA Times story, September 30, 2001
- Princess and the Marine Marriage Crumbles, By Stephen M. Silverman, December 01, 2004, People
- Divorce Court's Royal Split, January 7, 2005, Craig Tomashoff