Belgium aids Tehran runaways
4 December 2003
BRUSSELS – Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Michel met with the mother of two Belgian-Iranian children Wednesday – the girls sought refuge at the Belgian embassy in Tehran after running away from their father, who brought them to Iran illegally.
Michel told Zarah Pourhashmi that the Belgian authorities were determined to have Sara and Yasmine, six and 14 years of age, returned to Belgium, but urged Zarah to find a compromise to the situation as a unilateral solution would not be possible.
The children’s Iranian father Shahab abducted the girls in August of this year from his 36-year-old estranged wife in Liege, who had been awarded custody of the children after her divorce from their father.
The girls escaped from the house in which they had been staying for three months in Tehran however and caught a taxi to the Belgian embassy earlier this week.
Initial contact between the Belgian embassy in Tehran and Iranian officials indicate that negotiations will be difficult. Michel however has said himself prepared to travel to Tehran for discussions if invited by his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazi.
“The fact that they did what they did is enough to prove that they want to come home to the country where they were born and where they grew up,” mother Zarah told Le Soir.
Belgium’s Ambassador to Iran, Jacques Vermeulen, has confirmed that the girls, who were in a state of panic when they arrived at the embassy, thought they could have Belgian passports issued to them and sent home to Belgium there and then.
“We immediately took action to keep them at the embassy as, for us, the two girls are Belgian and it is our duty to protect them for as long as it takes,” said Vermeulen.
“We have transformed three offices into guestrooms so that members of the embassy’s staff can stay with the girls during the night.”
An international arrest warrant has been issued against Shahab for failing to return a child.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Belgian news