SEEKS TO FREE US MOM'S KIDS FROM PALESTINIAN 'CAPTIVITY'
By GINGER ADAMS OTIS
Last updated: 5:10 am
July 27, 2008
Posted: 4:06 am
July 27, 2008
Barack Obama carried out a secret assignment during his global tour last week.
While talking about the Middle East peace process in the West Bank Wednesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee slipped a note to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The private message: Help an anguished Chicago mother get her daughters back.
Obama detailed the plight of Colleen Bargouthi, 36. She says that for the last year, her four daughters have been held in the Palestinian territories, made to wear headdresses and schooled in Islam by their Muslim father, Yasser Shibli.
Obama asked Fayyad's help in Colleen's fight to get her girls home after their Palestinian dad blocked them from returning from what was to be a six-week family trip to his hometown of Ramallah on the West Bank.
"According to Colleen, [her husband] hit her, kept her as a virtual prisoner in her in-laws' home and menaced her with guns," the note reads.
The husband promised he "would return the girls if she went home and found a job and a place for the family.
"Yasser Shibli Bargouthi has since told Colleen that her daughters will never be allowed to leave to return to their mother. I would ask that the minister of justice look into this case."
Obama also asked the US consul general in Jerusalem, Jacob Welles, to investigate and work with Fayyad.
Colleen had taken her case to the Chicago media and met with Obama's camp. But she was unaware of his efforts until contacted by The Post.
An Obama staffer called Colleen Thursday saying that Fayyad had vowed to look into the situation.
"I can't believe it. I am so amazed and pleased," she said.
Colleen could never have imagined the turn of events her life has taken. She was Colleen Davis when she met Yasser, a grocery-store manager, in 1993 through a friend while she worked as a waitress at Midway Airport.
He was a Muslim and she a Baptist, but he told her it was not an issue. She made her religious beliefs clear to his clan and got their blessing before the two married in a Christian ceremony 15 years ago.
Six months later, they traveled to Ramallah and she was welcomed into the family. "I always told him that I was a Christian and would remain one, and that any children we had would be raised Christian," she says.
The couple settled in a Chicago suburb with her son, Ricky, from a previous marriage and had four daughters, Emily, 11, Hannah, 8, Amanda, 6 and Sarah, 5.
Colleen was a stay-at-home mom and her husband became manager of a cellphone store.
The couple bought a house in 1999 but sold it when they couldn't make the payments.