Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Mom reunited, briefly, with daughter after 12 years

June 7, 2009 | 12:37 pm


After years of legal battles and cross-cultural differences, an American mother was finally allowed to visit the daughter she had not seen in 12 years. Janet Greer of Honolulu, Hawaii, was granted permission last week to briefly see her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah El-Gohary, whose Egyptian father abducted her in 1997 and brought her to his native land.

Greer and Sarah's father, Magdy EL-Gohary, were never married.  Sarah disappeared from Hawaii one day during a visit with her father, and then the tale turned into an international custody battle. "I had to come and live in Egypt for three periods of time. I made my case public in various American and Egyptian papers and magazines and I made an episode of 'America's Most Wanted,' " Greer says.

But the 56-year-old mother made her breakthrough when she was interviewed by ABC's "Good Morning America," which decided to follow her latest visit to Cairo.

Greer had been granted custody of Sarah by American and Egyptian courts. In 2005, she was granted custody by Egypt’s Supreme Prosecution Office for Family Affairs.  Greer and her lawyers say years of obstruction followed.  Meanwhile, El-Gohary appealed and finally won custody last year, citing that he intended to raise Sarah as a Muslim.

There are no treaties between Egypt and the United States dealing with parental child abduction. Egypt is also not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which made it more difficult to force Sarah's father to honor the courts' rulings.

However, Greer's persistence and patience paid off when Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was asked about her case during his recent meeting with Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington. Greer took advantage of that publicity by traveling to Cairo days before President Obama's visit. The mother hoped that the president's presence would pressure Egyptian authorities to act.

Despite having an initial request to see Sarah overruled, Greer finally was contacted by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo; representatives told her that she was allowed to see Sarah (now called Ayatullah by her father) for two hours on June 3.

"When I saw her I didn’t recognize her first, I couldn’t believe it was her, then the more I looked at her I could see me," Greer told ABC. "The high point of my life was when her dad asked her if she wanted to play outside and she said no, she wanted to stay in my presence."

"I feel peace in my heart now. Even if I go back to the States and she's not with me, I feel the connection between us is finally there," she said.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Greer giving her daughter a ring. Credit: Citizen-Times