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.
Photo used with permission from Edeanna Johnson-Chebbi.