A Mother Rescues Her Daughter From War-Torn Syria

By NPR Staff

June 23, 2013

Louise Monaghan's journey to Syria to rescue her kidnapped daughter begins years ago at a club in Cyprus. It was there she met a Syrian man named Mostafa, whom she would marry.

"I was smitten from the first second," she tells NPR's Jacki Lyden. "I felt he was what I needed. He made me feel safe."

But Monaghan was not safe. Mostafa was verbally abusive and beat her. They married, and the couple had a daughter named May. When they divorced, Mostafa was given visitation rights, but he wanted more.

In 2011, when May was 6 years old, he kidnapped her and took her back to his family's home in Syria.

Monaghan went after them. She and her sister went to the Turkish border to hire men to rescue May, but then she realized getting her daughter back would require an even tougher choice. Monaghan would have to cross into Syria herself.

The story of Monaghan's journey through Syria is the subject of her book, Stolen: Escape from Syria.


Interview Highlights

On the decision to go into Syria to get her daughter 

"The initial plan was, was that for money, of course, [the Turkish men] would go over the border and snatch May back and take her back to safety in Turkey until we reached her. But the Turkish men were becoming less enthusiastic about going over to get May because they thought it was getting more dangerous. So I made the heartbreaking decision to leave my sister there and go over alone."

On realizing she and her 6-year-old daughter would have to walk out of Syria

"[The two hired smugglers] said to May and I, 'OK, you go now, bye.' And I looked across, and I couldn't see anything but mountaintops and desert and higher terrain. And I was completely dumbstruck. And I remember saying, 'Sorry?' and he said, 'Bye now, you walk.'"

On being in an abusive relationship

"I was particularly, I know, very vulnerable, and perhaps quite naive. And I perceived his control for affection and love. And I now know more about abusive relationships and abusers, and unfortunately as a victim you don't see it until it's too late."

On the problem of parental abduction

"Parental abduction is a huge problem on a worldwide basis, especially in the U.S. Unfortunately with parental abduction, especially to Middle Eastern countries, there is no Hague Convention. ... It's a not a law in most Middle Eastern countries, and in Syria in particular."

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