Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Tunisia to Return Abducted Children Eslam and Zainab Chebbi

Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Tunisia to Return Abducted American Children Eslam and Zainab Chebbi

January 5, 2012

 Dear President Marzouki,

I write to request your full and immediate attention to the matter of the kidnapping of two U.S. citizens, Eslam Chebbi (5) and Zainab Chebbi (2).  By now you and your staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice are fully aware of this case.  On November 11, 2011, Faical Chebbi, the children’s father and a dual citizen of Tunisia and the United States of America, departed for Tunisia with Eslam and Zainab, declaring never to return them home.

For 2 years I lived in fear of the retaliation of an abusive ex-husband.  I followed the rule of justice in the United States to ensure the safety of both my children and myself.  Following a consensual agreement to the terms of divorce and custody, I was still threatened by Faical that he would take our children and live in Tunisia.  A country, he claims, cares not about me or the laws of the United States.  A sentiment echoed by the staff and consulate of your embassy here, in Washington, DC.

Were it not for the neglect and disrespect of the staff at your embassy in Washington, DC, my babies would be home today.  After months of calling your embassy to prevent this kidnapping, I only received curt and hurtful statements: “We are Tunisia, the laws of your land don’t matter here,” or “Your custody makes no difference to us, if their father is Tunisian, he has the only right to your children.”

A member of the embassy staff was provided and made photocopies of every legal document pertaining to the custody of Eslam and Zainab, including a court order that neither child shall be removed from the United States.  I was told they would be placed in Faical’s permanent file at the embassy.  Regardless, First Secretary, Yessine Salah, explains that Faical applied for and received Tunisian birth certificates for Eslam and Zainab, who were then awarded passports (documents I have requested a photocopy of, and have yet to be provided).  Using those passports Faical was able to abduct Eslam and Zainab from the United States to Tunisia.

President Marzouki, Faical came to the United States, chose a life in the United States, and had a family in the United States.  He even became a citizen of the United States.  In this country, we married and divorced.  In this country, Eslam and Zainab were born.  In our courts, I fought for and received a protective order against Faical that allowed me and my children to escape his abuse.  Faical neglected any opportunity to fight for his children in the United States.  He freely signed custody of Eslam and Zainab to me in January of 2011.  And after being ordered to pay child support in November of 2011, he fled to Tunisia with my babies.

When Faical applied for Tunisian documents, he had no legal or physical rights to Zainab or Eslam.  Every step that Faical made to leave the United States with Eslam and Zainab violated the laws of this country – including obtaining Tunisian passports.  He fled to Tunisia as a criminal.  And he should be made to stand up to the decision he made as well as the charges brought against him for the heinous act of international kidnapping.

I have fought for the protection of my children through courts in the United States.  And now, because the powers of diplomacy are afraid to protect us, I am reduced to fight for them again in your courts – in a state where I have no comprehension of the laws or the language.  I will not cease to utilize every means of diplomacy and law to fight for my children, but I ask: where is your allegiance to human rights and justice in this?

President Marzouki, where are the rights of my small babies, Eslam and Zainab?  Where are my rights as a mother?  Must a matter of international justice rest upon the family courts of Tunisia? Are my children and I so insignificant to you and your new democratic government that the laws and rights that protected us in the United States mean nothing?  Is Tunisia committed to welcoming home an international criminal and kidnapper?  Is this the message you wish to convey to your citizens and the world that is watching?

Tunisia has overcome nearly 24 years of oppression under the dictatorship of former President Ben Ali.  As the world rejoiced at the overthrow of that regime, so too did Eslam, Zainab and I.  President Marzouki, I celebrated your election, and look to you as an example of a leader committed to the principles and ideals of democracy and justice.  I applaud your life commitment to human rights and belief in peaceful justice.  I too share those same ideals.

I pray upon your conscience President Marzouki, to reflect genuinely on the plight of two small children who have been abducted from their mother and all that is known and beloved to them.  And equally on a mother who is utterly lost without her children.

Your reputation is one of commitment to international justice.  I pray that you will show the United States; more than 18,000 international supporters; Eslam, Zainab, and me; and the citizens of your country, that Tunisia is truly committed to the rights and dignities afforded in a democratic system.

In closing I ask that you:  Return Eslam and Zainab to me and their home in the United States, and require Faical to stand responsible for his decisions and face the charges brought against him for international kidnapping.

In solidarity,

Édeanna M. Chebbi

Leave a comment


  1. Samantha .B

     /  January 5, 2012

    Great letter to a Tunisian President who won’t even see it and goes straight to a trash can,I mean to a delete botton,but good luck anyways.

  1. Update On Children Kidnapped by Tunisian Father | Care2 Causes

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