In a city known for quickie marriages and even quicker divorces, the star-crossed love story of a Bahrain princess and her US Marine husband has come to an end. Meriam Al-Khalifa Johnson has filed for divorce in Las Vegas, five years after their fairy-tale wedding inspired a made-for-TV movie and several television appearances.
Lance Corporal Jason Johnson, who smuggled the young woman into the United States, is not responding to calls for comment. His attorney, Jeff Conway, said Al-Khalifa Johnson has been in Washington, D.C., since Thursday coordinating her trip home, and may already have returned to Bahrain. Conway said his client is returning because her family fears for her safety in America, especially in the wake of violence against people of Middle Eastern descent since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The couple met in a shopping mall in Bahrain in 1999 and began a clandestine relationship. Her Islamic religion and royal family opposed their romance, but she and Johnson continued to meet in secret and exchange letters through a jewelry store employee. The two married in November, escaping their homeland with Johnson's help and the help of friends.
Their story made headlines, spawned a TV movie starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Johnson and Marisol Nichols as Al-Khalifa, and was featured on several talk shows. In May 2001, the Immigration and Naturalization Service granted her permanent residency in the United States, a privilege available to the spouses of Americans. Divorce would threaten her Green Card and could cause her to lose her right to remain in the country.