It can now be said and officially confirmed, that 8 year old Ahlam, the girl held captive with her family by Sinai human traffickers, has been freed after $41,000 ransom was paid to the Bedouin trafficker Abu Omar from Al Mehdia. He and his men had held and tortured them in North Sinai for almost three months – in full knowledge of the Egyptian police that did not intervene.
After the ransom was paid and Abu Omar finally agreed to let them go, the family was brought to Cairo to be received by international and Egyptian helpers on the case. But when they arrived in Cairo deep into the night of 27 March, things went very wrong on the last few metres and almost jeopardised the long sought freedom. For security reasons it is best not to tell that story, but it lasted almost another whole day until the situation could finally be resolved and the family was allowed to be taken into the care of the UNHCR.
While Ahlam and her mother were brought to a safe shelter in Cairo, Adem, the man known to be her father, had to be submitted to hospital for the grave injuries he suffered during the continuous torture inflicted by the Bedouins. He is currently still in medical care but will hopefully be able to join Ahlam and her mother soon.
The heroism of her uncle
In a stunning turn of events the truth about him and Ahlam's father has now surfaced, after the real father of Ahlam contacted the team that has worked hard for Ahlam's freedom. To the surprise of all helpers it was now disclosed that 'father' Adem is in fact not the father of Ahlam but her uncle, who only posed as her father in the hope to protect her from serious attacks by the Bedouins. In posing as Ahlam's father and husband to her mother, Adem also tried to guard the mother from being raped, which is a common practice by the traffickers in Sinai.
Ahlam's real father, who lives in Canada, had phone contact with the traffickers and his daughter and wife while they were held captive in Sinai, posing as a distant relative in Saudi Arabia – while Adem continued to play the role as Ahlam's father and husband to her mother to save both from the kidnappers assaults. For this he was subjected to torture, and one can only marvel at such bravery to protect his niece and sister-in-law.
Ahlam's father now hopes to see both his daughter and his wife and brother in Canada soon, and attempts are underway to secure the travel visa documents needed for this family reunion. It will take a few months until all is processed and the victims of the horror in Sinai will finally be able to regain the freedom they deserve so much. Until then they are in the care of UNHCR and are thankful to those Egyptians who have helped during the ordeal on arrival in Cairo, lawyers and contact persons that for their own safety ask not to be named.
The crimes continue
It must be noted that with her 8 years Ahlam has witnessed months of incredible brutality and even torture killings of other hostages right in front of her eyes. She will need serious trauma counselling in Canada, as Egypt does not provide this to victims of these horrible crimes tolerated in Egypt.
It must also be noted once more that Ahlam, her mother and her uncle were kidnapped by Bedouins in Sudan after they had fled across the border from Eritrea. They were abducted and trafficked over 1300 km to the Sinai where they were sold to Abu Omar and his men and held in captivity and brutally tortured.
The Egyptian government and the army and police in Sinai are well aware of the crimes happening and of the horrific fate of the hostages and were also aware of Ahlam and her family in Abu Omar's hands, but have undertaken no attempt to arrest the traffickers and free the hostages from the torture camps.
Only this weekend amnesty international in a strong appeal has once more urged the Egyptian government to finally act and put a stop to the human trafficking in Sinai which has now been allowed to go on for more than three years, has seen thousands of torture victims and hundreds if not thousands of innocent hostages being tortured to death.
Just two weeks ago, two young girls aged 18 and 19 were tortured to death as their families could not raise the high ransom demanded. Their mutilated bodes were dumped next to a road in the desert of Sinai. The week before, 8 year old Ahlam herself witnessed two male hostages being tortured to death by being hung up from the ceiling.
Up to now the Egyptian government has once more not responded to the international calls to act. The horror continues without any signs that the authorities will finally put an end to this humanitarian tragedy in Sinai.
Egypt remains silent – and thus complicit to these crimes.