Meet Edeanna, Zainab and Eslam Chebbi. On November 11, 2011, Faical Chebbi, Eslam and Zainab’s father and Edeanna’s ex-husband, kidnapped the children and took them to Tunisia.
This family abduction sparked the creation of Return US Home, an organization dedicated to the return of Eslam and Zainab to the United States.
Who they are:
Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi is a 30-year-old bi-racial woman. Her father was a nurse in the U.S. Navy and is a Vietnam veteran. He passed away in 1992. Her mother remarried and both parents reside in Maryland. Edeanna grew up in MD and is an alum of both American University in Washington, DC (BA) and St. John’s University in Rome, Italy (MA).
Eslam and Zainab Chebbi were both born in the State of Maryland. The family resided together in Maryland until February 2010, when Edeanna obtained a protective order and was able to remove herself and the children from the family home. She and her children have lived in Fairfax, VA since that time.
Faical Chebbi is a 39-year-old born in the country of Tunisia. He grew up there and immigrated to the United States in 2001. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen through marriage. While in the U.S. Faical ran a successful limousine service, Airport Access Limo, LLC. Additionally, he owned E.Z. Towing, LLC. Prior to fleeing the U.S., Airport Access Limo, LLC became Congressional Chauffeured Limo, LLC. Faical now resides in Tunis, Tunisia, with his parents and abducted children, Eslam and Zainab. He is now associated with Westwind Limousine in Tunisia.
According to Edeanna, after she fully converted to Islam in 2009, Faical began to take offense to her attempts to establish a Muslim home. Though a born Muslim, Faical was never strict about his faith. Following the birth of Zainab in 2009 Edeanna discovered inappropriate text messages and provocative chats indicating relationships with other women. The marriage unwound from there. Edeanna says, “the more I grew in my faith, and the more I learned of his infidelity, the less I allowed myself to give in to his attempts to put me down. As he lost control of me, he lost control of himself.”
She says the final months of 2009 were scary. “We tried counseling, we tried to re-connect, but he turned into Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. One minute he was nice, and the next minute he was screaming. He was irritable with the children, and become more sinister as the days grew,” she says. When Eslam began to call her stupid, Edeanna said she’d had enough. Once she asked for a divorce, she says, Faical snapped. “He would spend hours at night yelling at me, arguing with me, threatening my life and to take the kids if I left.” The finality came when on Valentine’s Day 2010 Faical became violent. “He called Eslam awful names. He became angry, put a hole in the wall and threw a television into my daughter’s crib, breaking the frame. Zainab was not in the crib at the time, but Eslam and I were inches away.”
Following that event, Edeanna obtained a protective order, and she and the children left the family home. Faical enjoyed unsupervised visitation on every other weekend, and time with the children on religious holidays.
In January of 2011, Edeanna and Faical signed a legal separation agreement, granting her full legal and physical custody of the children in exchange for maintaining visitation every other weekend, adding one weekday afternoon with the children, and no child support.
Following multiple threats of taking the children, Edeanna requested and was granted a meeting with a representative of the Tunisian embassy in June of 2011. “I was so relieved when Ilyees, who works in passport control, told me that the Tunisian embassy wouldn’t violate U.S. laws. He made photocopies of every court order we had and assured me the children would not receive Tunisian passports without my permission.” Following that meeting, Edeanna says she finally felt reassured and let her guard down.
On October 26, 2011, Faical and Edeanna came together before the magistrate of Maryland for a final hearing in their uncontested divorce. At this time, Faical was ordered to pay child support. “He left the courtroom angry. He pleaded that he was poor and should just be put in jail if he was going to be asked to pay money he didn’t have,” says Edeanna. “I knew he was going to retaliate, but I didn’t believe he could make it out of the country with the kids because of the embassy’s reassurances,” she says. On November 11, 2011, Faical picked up the children for their routine weekend visitation. It was later discovered that his friend, Sufyan, drove them directly to Dulles International airport.
Edeanna says, “the rest is known from there”.
[This report is based on the accounts of Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi and public records through the Maryland courts online]