It took seven months and EGP7,000 for three-year-old Partheniya to be back with her mother. Partheniya’s father Fady Farahat Azer had divorced her mother Mervat Rizqallah Fahmy in February 2006 and converted to Islam in May 2006, then went to court demanding custody of the then baby girl. The court, however, ruled that the little girl should remain with her Christian mother.
The father, naturally, had the right to a regular visit to see his daughter. At the time, this weekly visit did not bother the mother.
In July 2008 Azer asked to take Partheniya to spend a night with him at his home. This was the last time Fahmy saw her daughter—that is, until last weekend.
Haggling over a bribe
The mother reported her missing daughter to the police who, nevertheless, never brought the little daughter back, despite the court order and an order from the solicitor-general. The father claimed his conversion made his daughter automatically Muslim, and that he could not hand her to her Christian mother. Azer’s lawyer told Fahmy she would never be able to take her daughter back. “Neither the government,” he threatened, “nor human right organisations have the power to give you the girl. Your daughter is now Muslim and is in a special institution.”
Earlier this month a reconciliation session was held between both parents to arrange for the return of Partheniya to her mother. The session included the lawyers of both parties and was held at the police station. The police brought in Partheniya once the mother paid the father EGP7,000 and he accordingly agreed to hand her the little girl.
Fahmy says her daughter has been traumatised and is in a state of constant fear. She clings to her mother, refusing to let go of anyone so much as gets near her.
Naguib Gabrail who heads the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, said it was disgraceful indeed that a Christian mother was placed in a position where she had to haggle over a bribe to get her daughter back despite a court order in her favour.