Polish-born mother grabs her daughter back from Egypt

mother child beachA Polish-born mother travelled to Egypt to grab her daughter back, two years after her father disappeared with the toddler.

Alex Abou-El-Ella, from Slough, tracked down her daughter Mona, now three, with help from author and activist Donya al Nahi, who specialises in helping women find children snatched by husbands in Middle Eastern countries. Al-Nahi’s exploits have earned her the nickname ‘Jane Bond’.

Alex married her estranged husband Mustafa Abou-El-Ella in 2009, after meeting him in the Berkshire town. When Mona was just one, her father suddenly ran off  with their daughter, telling Alex he was taking her to see friends. He never came back.

Alex had sporadic contact with her daughter for her the next two years but noticed that Mona was beginning to forget her English, the Sunday People reports.

Her husband threatened to cut off contact. Increasingly desperate and with the UK government saying they were unable to help, Alex was put in touch with  al-Nahi. The two women found Mona living with her father’s family in Kafr el-Dawwar on the Mediterranean coast.

With the two pair disguised in traditional clothing, they reconnoitred the area near the girl’s nursery, and waited. When they saw Mona with one of her aunts one morning, Alex walked up behind the group in her disguise and grabbed hold of her daughter’s hand, dashing back to her and al-Nahi’s car with the astonished aunt in hot pursuit.

She recalled:

“I was walking behind them, faster and faster, and saw Mona’s hand a few metres away from me. So I grabbed her, pulled her into my arms and the lady looked at my face – but all she could see were my eyes.”

Despite nearly tripping, she made it back to the vehicle, only to find that the door was locked.

“I was panicking but Donya managed to open it and pull Mona in.”

The little girl didn’t initially recognise her mother and called out for her aunt, calling her Mummy, the paper reports.

“I felt shocked and upset to hear those words coming out of her mouth about another woman,’ she said. ‘But after half an hour she looked up at me and said, ‘Are you my mum?’ ”

Mother and daughter then fled the country, using a Polish passport belonging to Alex’s older daughter to disguise the identity of the younger one. Once back in the UK, she told her estranged husband that it was she who had taken Mona.

Egypt has not to date signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a major treaty governing the return of children taken by parents from one participating country into another. However, a judicial agreement signed in 2005, the Cairo Declaration, sets out a number of common legal principles on child abduction issues.

The government says it is “working to improve the effectiveness of the Cairo Declaration”.

However, it stresses:

“Neither the British government nor the British Embassy can force the abducting parent or the Egyptian government to return a child to the UK. There is no extradition treaty in force between the UK and Egypt.”

Photo by jemasmith via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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3 comments

Luke - August 5, 2013 at 10:33pm

From the information here this woman did the only thing she could – assuming the story is correct nobody should criticise her for it – the husband’s actions in the story are basically evil.

Daniel - August 6, 2013 at 1:16pm

Amazing courage, she really had no other choice.

michelle jatta - August 7, 2013 at 9:01am

I just hope the little girl is allowed to grow in an environment where she does not know what her father did. She is at an age where she will not remember anything and best stays that way. Hope she is allowed. Some form of contact with d ad one day even if supervised. I have two kids taken and my eldest remembers everything and is seriously damaged but the youngest thought it one long holiday and i prefer it that way. She will grow up still having contact and seeing dad. I do this not for me but for my child. I rather let her think she has a loving dad then a monster who tore her world apart

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