Two years ago, Alex Abou-El-Ella’s Egyptian-born husband Mustafa told her he was taking their baby daughter to visit friends. When he never came back to their home in England, Alex discovered that her husband had kidnapped their daughter and whisked her away on a flight to Egypt.
Now, the mom has reportedly gotten her daughter back after staging a daring rescue mission that involved flying secretly to Egypt, cloaking herself from head to toe in a traditional robe and veil, and grabbing her daughter when she was on a walk with an Egyptian relative.
Alex tells the British publication the Sunday People that she enlisted the help of author Donya Al-Nahi who has been described in the media as “Jane Bond” for her past rescue missions of children of British mothers abducted by their foreign-born fathers.
The two discovered the pre-school where Mona was enrolled and the apartment block where the now three-year-old was living.
Alex tells the Sunday People that she donned the conservative Muslim garb despite the extreme summer heat. She and her helper Al-Nahi hired a driver, arrived at the village Kafr el-Dawwar in the Nile Delta and staked out the apartment complex early one morning. Shortly before 9am, they saw Mona walking with a woman and another child.
“I got out of the car but I’m not used to wearing the long dresses so I kept pulling it up and walking funny,” Alex said. “I was walking behind them, faster and faster, and saw Mona’s hand a few meters away from me.”
The 29-year-old mother explains that she struggled to avoid tripping on the long garb.
“I grabbed her, pulled her into my arms and the lady looked at my face – but all she could see were my eyes. She started screaming and fell over on the floor. She even left her son to one side and screamed,” Alex recounts.
“I had Mona in my arms and ran to the car. But the door was locked. It’s automatic so when the car stops it’s locked and I couldn’t open it. I was panicking but Donya managed to open it and pull Mona in. She then pulled me in but we couldn’t close the door and I felt the woman breathing on my back. I just screamed, ‘Drive,’” she added.
Mona called out for her “Mummy” but was referring to the other woman.
“I cried for days because the moment I took her I heard Mona scream out to the woman in Arabic, ‘Mum, help me, Mum,’” Alex says. “I felt shocked and upset to hear those words coming out of her mouth about another woman. “But after half an hour she looked up at me and said, ‘Are you my mum?’”
From there, they made the three-hour drive to Cairo International Airport, but the drama wasn’t yet over.
Polish-born Alex was worried they would be barred from leaving by Egyptian immigration authorities. She came prepared with the Polish passport of her older child who has a different last name and then bribed an airport official to allow them to board a flight to London without going through the usual checks.
They arrived safely in London almost two weeks ago, and unlike the treatment she received, Alex has informed Mustafa that she now has their daughter.
The Sunday People reports that the couple met when the Egyptian immigrant was running a fast food stall in Slough. She told the paper that he “treated her like a princess.”
They moved in together and in 2009 married at the local registry three months before their daughter was born.
Alex says she converted to Islam, but never practiced the religion.
Of the night Mustafa absconded with their child, Alex said she had not suspected anything was amiss.
She said, “The police said he went straight to the airport, bought a ticket and boarded the plane. Mona was named on his Egyptian passport but by law each individual has to have their own travel documents and hers were at home.”
“I want to know how he managed to get through border control at Heathrow without proper ones,” she says. “If a child buys cigarettes they ask for ID – but when a child is taken through border control they don’t seem to care.”
Alex explains that before devising the rescue plan, she had little hope of ever retrieving her daughter. British authorities had told her that they were powerless to get Mona back, while estranged husband Mustafa at times threatened her over the phone that he would never allow her to see Mona again.
Donya Al-Nahi reportedly did not take money for her services and was motivated only by the principle, saying “You only have one mother and no one has a right to take you away from your mum. But Alex was the real hero here. She took the girl.”
In a 2003 profile of her, the New York Times wrote, “To her surprise, she discovered there was a demand for her services, in part because of the growing number of British women marrying men from Muslim countries, which, in a some cases, has led to irreparable culture clashes.”
In April, TheBlaze reported on a similar rescue operation this time carried out by a Pennsylvania woman, Kalliope “Kalli” Atteya, who tracked down her son Niko after her ex-husband Mohammed wouldn’t let him leave Egypt during a family visit.
This spring, like Alex, Atteya put on a burqa that revealed only her eyes and then grabbed Niko as he was getting off the Egyptian school bus.
(H/T: The Telegraph)