Friday 23 February 2018

Family of boy (10) kidnapped and taken to Egypt feel 'forgotten and abandoned'

  • Faris Daniel Heeney was dressed as a girl and smuggled out of the country
  • Family have made numberous attempts to have him returned
  • Grandmother feels case of Ibrahim Halawa is prioritised over theirs
Faris Daniel Heeney (6)
Faris Daniel Heeney (6)
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

The family of young boy kidnapped and taken to Egypt say they feel forgotten by Irish politicians, eight years after he was taken.

Faris Daniel Heeney was dressed as a girl and smuggled out of Ireland by an uncle in July 2009.

The boy, who is now 10, is being raised by his father Amir Ismaeil in Egypt.

Because the Arabic country isn’t signed up to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction there is no legal framework for getting Faris back.

Faris Heeney (top left) his grandmother Marian and below left Ibrahim Halawa
Faris Heeney (top left) his grandmother Marian and below left Ibrahim Halawa

The family, from Clonsilla in West Dublin, have made repeated calls on ministers to intervene in the case and make representations to their Egyptian counterparts in the case.

And this month his maternal grandmother Marian Heeney wrote to eight TDs who travelled to Egypt earlier this year as part of a cross party delegation to examine the case of another Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghail was joined by Green party Leader Eamon Ryan, Labour party leader Brendan Howlin, Darragh O'Brien (FF), Eoin Ó Broin (SF), Colm Brophy (FG), Paul Murphy (Solidarity) and Noel Grealish (ind)

However she told Independent.ie that some of the deputies responded to say they "weren’t aware of this incident". This is despite extensive coverage about the case across websites, newspapers and broadcasters over the last four years.

Mrs Heeney said: “It is awful what is happening to that other lad Ibrahim Halawa over there. However we can’t help but feel forgotten and abandoned in all of this.

“They are making such a fuss and that is fair but when we wrote to them the only response we received was that they were not aware of the incident.”

Mrs Heeney added: “It’s a nightmare. He was kidnapped on his mother’s birthday and that was on July 27. It’s been eight years now and it is especially difficult this time of year.”

Mrs Heeney’s daughter Norma had been in a two-year relationship with Faris's father, Amir Ismaeil, when they both worked in a Dublin hospital.

After it ended, Norma allowed Faris to have a sleepover in her father's home in Dublin in July 2009. But when she went to collect him the next day, she was told he was in Egypt.

Ismaeil's brother, Moustafa, had smuggled him out of Ireland having dressed him as a girl. Moustafa was later sentenced to six years in an Irish prison for abduction and served four years. Amir was on bail in Ireland on a sex attack charge but they fled Ireland. Norma, Marian and other family members have visited Faris in Egypt but they are not allowed to take him back.

They can speak to him intermittently on Skype and are learning Arabic so they can communicate better in future. However they say that they ache to hug him.

Independent.ie contacted all eight TDs who travelled to Egypt in January.

Ibrahim Halawa
Ibrahim Halawa

A spokesperson for Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail said that when he led a parliamentary delegation to Egypt in January 2017, the purpose of that visit was to discuss parliamentary relations and to raise the case of Ibrahim Halawa, who is on trial in Egypt since August 2013.

"It is important to state that the Ceann Comhairle was not at that time aware of the case of Faris Daniel Heeney. In fact, he did not receive any correspondence about the case until August 2017.  Since being contacted by Faris’ family, the Ceann Comhairle has indicated that he is prepared to meet with the family and he has also contacted the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the matter." 

Dublin South West TD Colm Brophy said: "I wasn't aware of the case but I would be happy to raise it with our own Department of Foreign Affairs and the Egyptian authorites. There was no instructions at all given by Foreign Affairs or anybody else in relation to it."

The remaining six TDs did not respond to the query.

Marian Heeney said she also contacted three departments about the case.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said the Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead department on this and as such was not in a position to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said former Minister Frances Fitzgerald "met the family some years ago and, while sympathising with their situation, was clear that the matter was outside of her remit".

Independent.ie has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for a comment.

Last week Minister Simon Coveney said he sent a personal message of solidarity to Irishman Ibrahim Halawa as he marks four years in jail.

The 21-year-old was incarcerated after being detained during Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo in 2013.

Mr Coveney marked the jail-time anniversary by urging Mr Halawa to stay strong.

He said he wanted to reaffirm his determination and that of the Government to secure his release.

"I am sending a personal message to Ibrahim Halawa today expressing solidarity with him, encouraging him to stay strong and hopeful, and renewing the Government's promise to him that we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that he is able to return home as soon as possible."

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