Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 14:51 UK

Mother's pledge after abduction

By Peter Wilson
BBC Midlands Today home affairs correspondent

A former NHS doctor describes her anguish after her two sons were apparently taken to Syria by their father eight months ago, against her wishes.

Dr Abo Hamed is devoting her time to the search

Dr Yusra Abo Hamed's face softens as she gazes at her laptop screen. Her two boys, seven-year-old Sami Odeh and her baby Rami, aged three, scamper around their Birmingham home.

But the videos are almost a year old and she has seen neither child since she handed them over to their father for a routine weekend's custody last December.

A growing number of people are seeing their children abducted and taken abroad - not by strangers but by their former partners, according to the UK charity Reunite International Child Abduction Centre.

Dr Abo Hamed had alerted immigration officials to her fears that her sons might be taken abroad.

Her former husband, Dr Bassam Odeh, disappeared with the boys even though their British passports were held by their mother's solicitors.

A telephone text message allegedly informed her that he had taken them to Syria.

'Special song'

West Midlands Police have been investigating the case and confirmed they believe Dr Odeh and the two children did fly out to Damascus in December.

A spokeswoman said officers were working closely with the Foreign Office and British embassy in Syria to try and locate the children and and to make sure they were safe and well.

Despite the intervention of police and the child abduction unit at the Foreign Office, Dr Abo Hamed has yet to be reunited with her children.

She has sacrificed her own job as a doctor with the NHS in order to go to Damascus in search of them.

Dr Yusra Abo Hamed
Dr Abo Hamed has pledged to continue her search

She said: "I went to Syria. I didn't have any plans - just to get my kids back."

Although the courts there have attempted to help, the children have not been found.

She says her life has become a living nightmare and she can't imagine what her son's have been told or how they were coping.

"I don't know what explanation was given to them - especially my eldest, " she said.

She added: "My little one is very attached to me. He used to go to sleep when I sang him a special song."

The life she built after separating from her husband has now been torn up, both her job and the house she rented have gone.

Dr Abo Hamed, who is originally from Syria, is now devoting her life to finding and reclaiming her sons.

"I will never ever give up looking for them," she said.

Both Sami and Rami were born in Britain and were being educated in Birmingham.

Sami's birthday presents remained unopened on his bed after their sudden flight.

A court order had been made last November preventing either parent from taking the children abroad without the permission of the court or the other parent.

'No agreement'

Now the family court in Birmingham has issued a new order allowing the case to be publicised and the circumstances of the boys abduction broadcast.

Photos of Dr Bassam and his sons show he loves his children too, but his ex-wife says he should search his heart and think what is best for them.

Last year almost 500 children were abducted from the UK and taken abroad illegally, says Reunite International.

The charity said summer was the peak time for abductions, as children were taken abroad during the holidays and not returned.

Dr Bassam Odeh with his son Rami
Police believe Dr Bassam Odeh flew to Syria in December

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it had been supporting Dr Abo Hamed.

A spokesman said: "We have been in touch with the children's mother since December 2008 and continue to offer her consular support."

He added that Syria had no extradition treaty with Britain and was not a signatory to the Hague convention on international child abduction which aimed to ensure children's safe return to the country where they normally lived.

Under the agreement, issues of residence and contact were then decided by the courts of that country.

"In the absence of any international agreement between Syria and the UK, a parent would need to take legal advice and file a custody or contact case in the courts in the country of abduction," he said.

"This can be a very lengthy and expensive process, with no guarantee of the child being returned at the end of it."

Meanwhile, Dr Abo Hamed has pledged to never give up searching or fighting to get her sons back.



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