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A judgement for right.

ON 5 APRIL Pamela Green will attend a Cairo Court to hear whether or not she has been awarded custody of her two sons, abducted by their Egyptian father in 1989, then aged six and five years old. This will be Pamela's third visit to the courthouse in less than two months, the verdict was originally set for 15 February but the judge adjourned until 8 March. On arriving at the court on 8 March, Pamela was told the proceedings had again been adjourned, this time until 5 April. With very little money and diminishing hope Pamela Green decided to wait in Egypt, depending on the charity of Egyptian friends, in the faint hope that in April the issue of custody will be settled once and for all. Waiting is, by now, something very familiar to Pamela Green, she has been doing it for almost four years.

Pamela Green met her Egyptian husband Abdel Salam Ahmed in London in 1978. The couple were married in Cairo the following year according to Egyptian law, at a Cairo registry office and shortly afterwards in a civil ceremony at the Consular Section of the British Embassy. After spending several months in Cairo, the newlyweds returned to London to live and work. Unfortunately after six years and the birth of three children, a daughter Yasmeen and two sons, El Sawy and Sammie, the marriage began to break down and the couple were divorced.

The separation was an acrimonious one but, by 1989, Pamela and Abdel Salam seemed to have restored something of their earlier friendship. Abdel Salam had married a young Egyptian woman and seemed to have settled down, he even apologised for his previous bad behaviour and said that in the future the children must be the prime concern of them both. Pamela's relationship with her ex-husband had improved to such an extent that when he wanted to take the children to Cairo to visit their grandparents, she agreed. The day after Abdel Salam and the children arrived in Cairo, Pamela was told in a telephone conversation with her ex-husband that she would never see her children again. He also warned that if she came to Egypt to try to get the children back he would have her killed. Yasmeen was nine and her brothers six and five years old at the time of their abduction.

Despite her ex-husband's threats Pamela started fighting immediately and three weeks later in October 1989, after borrowing money for the fare, she was on her way to Cairo to try to get her children back. Her first step, she decided, would be to have the Egyptian court award her legal custody of her three children. It is a fight she is still involved in almost four years later.

Pamela had been warned that in Egypt the wheels of justice grind exceedingly slowly. But, while the system churns inexorably on, Pamela feels her children are suffering physical and psychological damage that may never be repaired. Small wonder then that in December 1990 after taking legal advice on the implications of her action, Pamela set out to snatch her children. During the attempt she was repeatedly stabbed by the childrens' grandfather, her ex-father-in-law, who was accompanying Yasmeen, El Sawy and Sammie to school. During four and a half hours of surgery Pamela's heart stopped three times and she was given eight pints of blood. The surgeons who operated on her were amazed she survived the ordeal.

Although she managed to bundle her daughter into a waiting car before she collapsed, her sons disappeared. She has never seen either of them since that day. She does not know how or where they live or even if they are still alive.

The British government has said they can do little to help Pamela Green since there is no agreement on the issue of abducted children between England and Egypt. Pamela has made personal appeals to hundreds of people in Britain and Egypt, including President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne, who she feels, as a wife and mother might be sympathetic to her plight. At a meeting in 1991 with the director of the Presidential Office, Dr Mustapha El Fiiqy, she was promised her children would be found and returned to her. Everything of value she has ever owned has been sold to help pay airfares and hotel bills and even though she and her daughter, now 12, live a modest lifestyle her campaign has put her in thousands of pounds worth of debt, much of which she can never hope to repay. Yet she continues to battle on.

Pamela Green must wonder, as do many who have followed her case, if she will ever get justice from the Egyptian courts. "I have taken second, third, fourth and fifth legal opinions, and the answer is always the same -- I have the right of child custody under Egyptian law but I have yet to be awarded that right."

The issue of abducted children is undoubtedly a thorny one and one which, it seems, few governments are prepared to involve themselves in. It is also true that legal matters, particularly in Egypt, are rarely resolved swiftly. But surely, after almost four years Pamela Green is entitled to a verdict. Even if it is not the verdict she so fervently hopes for, this expensive farce which involves her shuttling between England and Egypt, only to repeatedly see her case adjourned, must be brought to an end. Her initial agony was brought about by her ex-husband when he stole her children, but that agony has been unnecessarily prolonged, almost beyond the point of human endurance, by a legal system established by the people for the people but at whose hands Pamela Green has been ill-used.
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Title Annotation:a British woman's battle with her Egyptian husband for legal custody of her children
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Europe's African dimension.
Next Article:Provoking the peace.

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