Expatica news

Embassy girls arrive home in Belgium

6 May 2004

BRUSSELS – Two young sisters who had been holed up in the Belgian embassy in Tehran for five months arrived home in Belgium on Thursday morning.

Seven-year-old Sara Pourashemi and her sister Yasmine, 15, landed at Zaventem airport just outside of Brussels shortly before 8am.

Speaking to journalists soon after getting off of the plane from Tehran, Yasmine Pourashemi said that when her foot touched Belgian soil she “felt really free”.

The girls’ mother Zahra Pourashemi said she could still not believe the ordeal was finally over.

“Even though I have my children next to me, I’m still finding it hard to believ it is true,” she said.

The sisters left Tehran late on Wednesday night and changed planes in the Netherlands before arriving in Brussels.

The girls’ return follows a visit to Belgium on Tuesday by Iranain Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, who said that he expected the sisters would be allowed to be travel back to Belgium after a meeting in Tehran between their divorced parents.

The sisters’ mother is Belgian-Iranian and their father Iranian.

The father kidnapped the sisters and took them to Tehran while on holiday in Greece in August 2003.

In December they escaped to the Belgian embassy in the city, where they have been seeking refuge ever since.

Their case has caused severe diplomatic strains between Belgium and Iran.

The Belgian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for the girls’ father, arguing that the sisters should be allowed to return to live with thier mother in the Belgian city of Liege.

But under Iranian law, the father is the girls’ legal guardian.

It is understood that the deal reached for the girls’ return on Thursday saw Belgium drop the arrest warrant and grant the father visiting rights to see his daughters.

Yasmine Pourashemi said on Thursday that she had no problem with the thought of seeing her father again.

“He regrets what happened and he is still my father,” she said.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news