Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Help!!! Child Abducted

I am reposting a story from my friend’s blog Egypt Unbound: The Wild Ride detailing the alleged kidnapping of a young girl named Soraya. However, as my friend points out toward the end of her blog, I want to make everyone aware of an avoidable circumstance so as to hopefully prevent this from happening again.

I have been contacted a few times from women living overseas who have met Egyptian men via the internet. No, I’m not here to judge, but what I will say is that meeting someone from your native country online is far different than meeting a foreigner. You essentially have no idea of the culture and to be quite honest, there are certain cultural differences that you simply can’t overcome.

In Egypt, if you are a foreign woman and have a child with an Egyptian Muslim man, you essentially have no rights to your child. Naturally no one will tell you that he’s going to strip the child from your arms and you will never see it again, and no, your government will NOT get involved, but this is a risk that you take so don’t pretend as though you’ve never watched the movie “Not Without My Daughter” starring Sally Fields based on a true life story of an American woman who married an Iranian man, finally visited Iran with him and then was told she could leave without or daughter or stay because her daughter would not be leaving Iran.

When some of you have contacted me discussing the Egyptian that you’ve met online, I try to maintain an open mind; however, I do make sure to put you in touch with someone who was in a similar situation and/or recant a story to give you a better idea of what you could be getting yourself into. No, not all Egyptians are bad, but it’s just like that movie “He’s Just Not that into You.” The main premise was that we always want to think we’re the exception to the rule (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “No, he’s very open minded, he’s not your typical Egyptian” only for it to turn sour nine times out of 10), but the truth is, more often than not, we are the rule and rarely the exception.

Be smart. Learn about the culture and not just from the man you’re speaking to, do your own research. Look up the law to see what avenues you could take should something, God forbid, happen. You need to educate yourself and don’t go into a situation blindly. That saying “love is blind” is for the stupid. You can still have love and be smart too.

And without further ado, here’s Child Abduction Warning:

Meet Soraya. This is one of the last photos her mother has received after Soraya's father allegedly kidnapped her on May 10, 2011.

Soraya's mother, Peggy Dierich, tells the story of her daughter's kidnapping and the years that led up to this tumultuous event in her life.

Peggy first met Soraya's father, Mahmood Gaber, online in 2008. Their Internet communications grew into a romance, and Peggy agreed that it was time her and Mahmood meet in person. In 2009, Peggy left Germany and headed for Alexandria, Egypt, where she was to meet Mahmood for the first time and spend two weeks with him.

For many women living in Egypt, particularly those who live in touristic areas such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, what transpired next is not an altogether unusual story.

Peggy and Mahmood found themselves caught up in a whirlwind romance, and what was eventually meant to be a two week stay became a one-year period. During this time, Peggy got pregnant.

The details surrounding what happened next are a little hazy, Peggy was quoted as saying that she left because "it was not safe for an unmarried woman to be pregnant in Alexandria," whereas other sources claim the reason she left was that Mahmood was conscripted into the Army. Although the details as to why she left do matter, they are inconsequential to the grand scale of the story at hand here.

After leaving Egypt and returning to her home country Germany, Peggy gave birth to a daughter, Soraya, in January of 2010. Initially Mahmood expressed no interest in being a father.

Fastforward to 2011, Peggy was contacted and told that Mahmood was seeking a visa to come and visit his daughter in Germany. The visa process would have required that Peggy sponsor him during his stay, and would be responsible for him. It was a risk she did not want to take, so after a few phone calls it was decided that she would instead go to Egypt to visit Mahmood.

The initial plan was set. Peggy and Soraya would fly into Cairo on May 10, spend a day or two in Cairo, then fly onwards to the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to spend some time with Mahmood. He was even the one who had sent them the flight tickets.

"I had no reason not to trust him," Peggy says online. "It would be the first time for him to see his child."

Soraya and her mother were picked up from the airport on May 10, and were taken to where their were allegedly meant to stay in a hotel for the night. While Peggy was around the back end of the car to get her belongings, Mahmood jumped into the drivers seat and sped off with Soraya in the car, leaving her mother in the street with nothing more than the clothes on her back and her handbag.

After losing sight of the car, Peggy immediately went to the police station to report the crime. She notified the German embassy that her daughter, a German citizen, had been kidnapped.

Mahmood is originally from Alexandria. Police there conducted search raids in his home and a few areas around his home neighbourhood. They found no trace of Soraya.

Peggy has since been desperately searching for her child. Mahmood has intermittently been communicating with her via email, taunting her that "she will never see her child again," but that she can "contact him every Friday to find out if she is ok."

The below picture is one of the recent shots sent to Peggy. Initial reports indicate that this might be in the area of Marsa Matruh, to the west of Alexandria. If you know where this is, please contact me immediately.

Although Soraya's story is a tragic one, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this. Soraya's story is not the first of its kind in Egypt, whereby a foreign woman falls in love with a local Egyptian man and is swept off of her feet in a Hollywood-esque love story.

That fantasy rarely lasts. The ratio of relationships that actually do work in crossing the cultural divide are few and far between.

It should also be noted that in Egyptian culture, as in most Islamic cultures, in cases of disputed custody over a child the law almost always favors the father. Thus, in the eyes of many Egyptians, Soraya was not in fact kidnapped, her father was merely assuming his custodial rights. Countless stories of women who have brought their children to visit their fathers in Egypt and end up with an alleged exist.

I hope that Peggy and Soraya are reunited. I hope that the power of people on the Internet will effect change. And I hope that this story will serve as a reminder for women in the future that if you do "trust" your partner and plan to return to visit with the child, that you have all your back-up plans in place.

Peggy will now have to seek the services of a lawyer, who will face an uphill battle in proving that the mother should be given legal responsibility of the child. If Peggy were to merely show up and take Soraya with her, she may end up with an entirely new scope of problems to deal with as under Egyptian law, she would then have kidnapped her daughter from the father. The lack of a marriage contract between the two may only worsen the situation for Peggy here.

Please, share and post this story. If you have any information that may lead to the whereabouts of Soraya, post here or contact me.

For more information on Soraya's case, you can see here: (Links are in German)

Berlin Online

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