A LOCAL mother has appealed for the support of the public as she continues with her ongoing battle to bring her beloved daughter – who she claims was abducted as a one-year-old baby by her then-partner – home to the North.
Newtownstewart native, Dorothy Fowler first hit the local and national headlines a number of years ago when she was reunited with her now-adult daughter in Gaia, Egypt after searching for her where-a-abouts for more than two decades.
The 48-year-old, who is now living in Drumquin, has spent the last two years trying to bring Shaymaa home from living a life of severe poverty in the Middle East – but so far her quest has proved futile due to mountains of red tape and bureaucracy.
When Dorothy was just wide-eyed 18-year-old, she travelled to Athens in Greece to begin her new life working as a nanny. It was there, in 1989, that she met an Egyptian man who she fell in love with.
“We were together for a little while, and during that time, I became pregnant with his child,” Dorothy reflected.
“I gave birth to Shaymaa when I was just 19-years-old. I was so young, guillible and naive.”
But one fateful night in Greece in 1991, Dorothy’s partner – who had become very abusive over time – caught her trying to sneak out of the house with Shaymaa, who was just 18-months-old.
“Shaymaa was sleeping at the time,” Dorothy said. “I went to lift her, but my partner came in and stopped me.
“He asked me, ‘Where are you going?’ And I told him I was flying back home with Shaymaa. And he said to me, ‘You are not going anywhere. Put the baby back’.
“He then told me he was going to ‘behead’ Shaymaa if I tried to take her again.”
Shortly afterwards, multiple men – friends of the father – arrived at the couple’s family home.
They beat the terrified mother, removed her with force from the house and bundled her into a car. She was then driven to the nearby airport and told to leave, all while screaming for her daughter.
“I remember my last glimpse of Shaymaa as a baby,” Dorothy recalled. “She was lying fast asleep on the bed unaware of the chaos that had unfolded around her.”
After being sent home to the North, Dorothy found out that Shaymaa had been kidnapped by her father, who had fled from Greece.
Upon contacting the British Embassy in Athens for help, staff admitted that both Shaymaa and her father had vanished. However they suspected that Dorothy’s partner and youngster had fled to Cairo, Egypt – because that was the country where he was from originally.
The truth of Shaymaa’s exact whereabouts came to light in 2015 when Dorothy received a phonecall from the Omagh police out of the blue. It was Shaymaa’s father on the line, looking to speak with her.
“He told me where Shaymaa was,” Dorothy said. “He also told me she had recently married and had given birth to a child.”
It transpired that the father had abandoned Shaymaa in Giza, Egypt and she had spent her life living there with his sister.
And while Shaymaa was healthy, it emerged that the 26-year-old was living in extreme poverty in Egypt.
Overwhelmed by the bittersweet news, Dorothy immediately flew out to see Shaymaa – despite warnings from the British Embassy that she would be at risk as the area was unsafe.
“When I was reunited with Shaymaa for the first time two years ago, it was like the world stood still,” Dorothy recollected. “I thought she was dead for so long.
“My daughter was just beautiful. She was a gorgeous Muslim girl.
“We laughed and cried together. I speak some Arabic, and her English was quite good. We instantly bonded.”
She added, “But Shaymaa had no life in Egypt. She told me that she wanted to home come with me. It breaks my heart that so far that has not been possible.”
“I don’t have either Shaymaa’s Greek birth certificate and I am unable to get her British passport renewed because of it,” Dorothy explained.
“Every time I try to push things forward or try to obtain legal documents, I am fobbed off by the Greek and Egyptian Embassys who continue to demand more money off me for legal documents that unfortunately the British Embassy will not accept.
“Before Christmas, I was in contact with a Greek lawyer in London who is trying to locate Shaymaa’s Greek birth certificate, at a cost of €200, but with my daughter’s children being born in Egypt there will be more red tape.
“In the meantime, my ex-partner is in court trying to take a Prohibited Steps Order against me to prevent me from going to Egypt. If this happens, more of my avenues to Shaymaa are blocked.
“I just want Shaymaa to come home. It would mean the world and more to me.”
Dorothy is appealing to the public, government officials, and anyone who thinks they can help in any way to get in touch.
As travelling to-and-from Egypt to visit her beloved daughter and grandchildren and obtaining legal documents from UK, Egyptian and Greek authorities has proved costly, Dorothy has also appealed to the general public for essential financial aid.
Her GoFundMe page can be located here: https://www.gofundme.com/ mc9qfnxg.
Dorothy can also be contacted on: 07955008412.