Tug-of-love boy celebrates birthday

11th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

11 July 2006, AMSTERDAM — The boy at the centre of the tug-of-love dispute between his Dutch mother and his Syrian father turned 13 on Tuesday.

11 July 2006

AMSTERDAM — The boy at the centre of the tug-of-love dispute between his Dutch mother and his Syrian father turned 13 on Tuesday.

Ammar had hoped to celebrate his birthday with his mother and 10-year-old sister Sara in the Dutch town of Oude-Pekela.

Instead, he and his sister spent his birthday in the Dutch embassy in Syria where they came to seek sanctuary from their father Hisham El-Hafez two weeks ago. Their mother, Janneke Schoonhoven, says the children have been snowed under in post from well-wishers.

"A lot of post has gone to the Embassy and many letters have come here too. The post man brought me a lot of letters, which only address with my name and Oude-Pekela," Schoonhoven said.

"Apparently they know in the post office where the mother of the children in the Syrian Embassy lives."

Schoonhoven's present for her son was rushed to the Embassy by courier. "Ammar is very sad that I cannot be with him for his birthday. In any case he has a present from me," she said.  

El-Hafez is accused in the Netherlands of abducting the children and bringing them to his homeland in 2004. He, in turn, accuses Embassy staff of abducting the children.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry has denied this allegation and talks are continuing to resolve the stand-off. Under Syrian law, the children would come under their father's control should they leave the Embassy.

A spokesperson for the Dutch Foreign Ministry in The Hague said it was impossible to predict when the children can return to the Netherlands. "It could take days, or weeks or even longer."

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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