“This week was horrific,” Kennodene Levendal tells YOU. She’s having nightmares that her daughter’s been promised to someone as a child bride.
“It can happen from the age of 13. What does a child of that age know about things like sex?” she says, the pain evident in her voice.
She hasn’t seen, spoken to or heard from her daughter Amiera in eight years.
She’d give anything to get on a plane and fetch her daughter, she says. “If you have money, you can do a lot of things. But I don’t have the money.”
Besides, she has no idea where her estranged husband, Alaa, and Amiera are. Just that they’re somewhere in North Africa.
Kennodene could never have foreseen that she’d be losing her daughter when Amiera, then two years old, and Alaa left to visit his family in Egypt in 2011. They never returned to South Africa.
The last time she spoke to her daughter had been on the phone on 6 July 2011.
“She laughed excitedly when she heard my voice,” Kennodene recalls sadly. “Her last words to me where in Arabic, ‘Come, Mommy, come to me.’ I’ve been holding onto those words ever since.”
But on 7 July 2011 Alaa called her with the shocking news that Amiera had been killed when she was run over by a truck. Alaa told Kennodene – from “jail” – that he’d confronted the truck driver and stabbed him to death with a knife.
A day later Kennodene had to deal with a second shock: Amiera had already been buried in line with the Muslim tradition.
“Please, just send me a picture of the grave,” she begged Alaa and his friends on social media. Kennodene says Alaa promised her he’d return to SA with the death certificate.
She and Alaa spoke on the phone for four months. Then Yvette Boeijenga, a cousin of Kennodene’s who lives in the Netherlands, was able to establish – with the help of SA authorities – that Egyptian authorities were unable to produce a death certificate for Amiera. They did, however, confirm that Amiera had entered Egypt but never left. There was no evidence of her death.
“I was at a loss for words. Why would he spread such horrible lies?” Kennodene says.
Egyptian friends have been trying to help her. But negotiations to get Amiera back in SA are hampered by the fact that Egypt isn’t a signatory of the United Nations’ Hague Abduction Convention. The convention was drawn up to expedite the process of returning children to their home countries in cases where they were abducted by one of the parents.
Kennodene has been asking Facebook friends and family members of Alaa’s to help her get a recent picture of her daughter. “I wander around as if I’m a zombie, grieving for my child who’s still alive but whom I can’t even hug.”
Finally, on 12 June last year she received news. An uncle of Amiera’s secretly sent Kennodene a picture of Amiera. Still, Kennodene couldn’t contact her daughter.
She has a long list of everywhere she’s asked for help: the Egyptian embassy in Pretoria, home affairs, foreign affairs, Interpol . . . All to no avail.
Her story has been in several magazines and newspapers, as well as on the South African TV programme Fokus.
“Is there anyone who can help?” she wonders. “I think it’ll be a long time before I can wipe away my tears. But I want to encourage other moms whose children are gone to never stop fighting to get them back.”
Additional source: mosselbayadvertiser.com