Update On Children Kidnapped by Tunisian Father

Last month, Care2 reported on an American mother who is fighting to get her children back after their non-custodial father kidnapped them and took them to his birth-country Tunisia.

Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi separated from her husband Faical Chebbi via a protective order in February 2010 after he threatened to kill her. Although Johnson-Chebbi had full legal and physical custody of their children, five-year old Eslam and two-year old Zainab, her ex-husband did have limited unsupervised visitation with them. On November 11, 2011, just weeks after their divorce was finalized, Chebbi picked up the children for their regular visit and didn’t return. Instead, Chebbi abducted the children and boarded a flight to Tunisia with them. Johnson-Chebbi is now fighting to get her children back and looking for answers about how this happened.

Since Care2 first reported on it and encouraged people to sign the petition to Bring Home Kidnapped American Siblings Eslam and Zainab Chebbi, there have been several positive and some negative developments.

Continuing the Fight

Supporters have held several rallies outside the Tunisian Embassy in Washington, D.C. protesting the issuing of Tunisian passports to the children (despite assurances that they wouldn’t) and demanding that the children be returned. Johnson-Chebbi wrote open personal letters to both the President of the Republic of Tunisia and to Secretary Clinton. In her letter to Clinton, she wrote that she is “disheartened that stronger diplomatic pressure has not been placed” on Tunisia:

The further I go to fight for the children’s return, the more I ask myself, where is my country in all of this? Where is the United States that is offering billions of dollars in aid to Tunisia in advocating for their compliance with international legal covenants set up to protect us from this very situation?  Where is the concern over two U.S. citizens who were literally kidnapped from this country by the aid of foreign laws applied at an embassy in the U.S.?

Johnson-Chebbi has received some support from U.S. elected officials, in the form of a letter written by Senator Mikulski, which she presented to the Tunisian government while visiting the country. Her case has also received some media attention in Tunisia.

Feeling Cut-Off From Her Children

Johnson-Chebbi, who had previously been able to speak to her children frequently, has unfortunately experienced some difficulty reaching them lately. In an e-mail, she wrote:

Whenever I’d call the house, the phone would just ring and ring and ring.  I finally reached Zainab for maybe 2 minutes on Sunday, but when we spoke, the line cut.  In the brief time she said Baba won’t let me see her anymore, then she said skype was broken in Tunisia now.  I knew this was just what she’d been told.  I called back for 20 minutes straight with no answer.  Finally his mother answered, and I had a few more minutes with Zainab and Eslam

Johnson-Chebbi knew that Skype wasn’t broken because her parents had been able to speak with the children on Skype as scheduled. She also noted that attempts to reach the children seems to be improving again after that period of difficulty. The brief contact via Skype and telephone is Johnson-Chebbi’s only link to her children who she so desperately wants to have back at her side, here in the United States.

Another Call to Action

Now, in a fifth call to action, Johnson-Chebbi is encouraging people to write to their Senators and Members of Congress.  You can also still sign the petition to bring home kidnapped American siblings Eslam and Zainab Chebbi to help put more pressure on politicians.

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Photo used with permission from Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi.

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Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

I feel the heartache that mother is feeling -- I know how frantic I would be. Since the U.S. is responsible for letting those children on the plane, I feel every State Dept. effort should be made for these AMERICAN CITIZENS! I'm also very concerned at the indoctrination the children are receiving while in Tunisia.

Audrey Tilley
Audrey Tilley3 years ago

Signed sealed and delivered.

Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta3 years ago

Signed the petition last year. Keeping a close eye on this one :-(

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

I signed the petition. I think the kids belong with their mom.

Ann Fuller
Ann Fuller3 years ago

I feel for the mother. My grandchildren were kidnapped by their mother and living in the same town but it took nearly 2 years before my son got them back. My advice is NEVER give up no matter how long it takes. Put your faith in God and give it up to him.

Diane F.
Diane F.3 years ago

Hi Gillian M. Thanks for your comments. I do agree with you as well. Some inexperienced or ill-informed women are naive when they "fall in love" and don't think of the consequences because while under the influence of "love" people believe what they want to believe. Most people are really out of their mind when in love because they literally can't think with their brains (men think with their you-know-whats & women think with their hearts). I myself have made some very bad mistakes in that department. Fortunately it was never with a Muslim from a Muslim country. I agree that not every woman is naive about those risks but blaming her for what happened is probably not a solution to what happened. The father is the kidnapper and kidnapping is a crime. All she did was make the mistake of having his children. I understand what you were saying and I believe everything you stated is true!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

So sad. i have worries that my son's Mexican father will one day attempt to take my baby. It's a constant worry

Gillian Miller
Gillian M.3 years ago

sorry, cat on keyboard - people will not believe that the person that they love may turn out to be a swine and take the child(ren) away. Some will do it out of sheer spite and others because they can. It seems to me that, in this case, it is both. This man is a typical abuser who believes that he has had the last laugh and he is probably right because he is in a Muslim country and Muslims believe that the wife has no rights, that the children are better off Muslim and that who cares about the West and a woman?

I believe that the American government will not act on behalf of the 2 children as they will want to keep on Tunisia's right side. A few thousand dead soldiers for oil in Iraq was an acceptable exchange so 2 little children really do not make the grade!

Gillian Miller
Gillian M.3 years ago

Diane, to some extent I agree with you. However, people should be aware that, in the event of marrying a Muslim, it is a distinct possibility that he/she can take them to a Muslim country and then they will not be returned. People in live think that th

KS Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.