A WIRRAL mum has described her heartache one year on from the day her son was abducted and taken to Saudi Arabia.
A year on, Ranem Elkhalidi relives that day constantly – “It was the worst day in my life,” she told me, speaking last week about finding out her son had been taken.
Ibrahim, who is six, appears in Ranem’s dreams regularly, at one point nightly. When he does, she tells me he never looks at her, answers her pleas to speak to him, or lets her hug him.
Ibrahim, who went to school in Warrington until shortly before his abduction, was taken to Saudi Arabia by his father Hamzah Faraj on November 11 of last year.
Whilst Hamzah is now wanted by British police, the lack of an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia means there is little Ranem can do to bring her son home.
Speaking of the last day she saw him, Ranem’s biggest regret is that she never said goodbye to her son.
She said: “I remember I dropped Ibrahim off on Friday to his school.
“I didn't have a chance to hug him or say goodbye or say anything. I just went to his teacher and told them his dad is going to pick him up.
“So, I spoke to the teacher so they knew who was going to pick up Ibrahim, and he ran off into the school.
“I thought, oh it’s fine because I’m going to see him on Tuesday, it’ll be my turn to pick him up from school.”
That was the last time she saw her son.
Ranem, now 25 and living in Heswall, was arranged to marry Hamzah when she was just 15 and he was 23. The marriage was arranged by their families, with the pair also being cousins.
Shortly after moving to the United Kingdom and having Ibrahim, the marriage began to break down.
This led to a divorce, and later an application of shared custody. Part of the court order implementing this custody agreement prevented Ibrahim from being taken out of the country without the express permission of both parents, and the court.
That order – known as a 'prohibited steps' order, was granted in Liverpool Family Court on November 3.
Just nine days later, Hamzah flouted this order, taking Ibrahim to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and has not returned since.
A year on Ranem still feels infuriated that a predictable and preventable eventuality occurred.
Ranem Elkhalidi (left) and son Ibrahim (right) (Image: Ranem Elkhalidi)
She calls the court order ‘a waste of the paper it was printed on’.
As well as applying for the prohibited steps order, months beforehand Ranem sent a letter to the Saudi Embassy, pleading to not allow her son to be taken out the country.
An extract from that letter, shown exclusively to the Wirral Globe, reads:
“I ask Your Excellency to look with the eyes of justice and mercy and not to give my husband a passport for our son Ibrahim or to help my husband to take Ibrahim out of Britain.”
The Saudi Embassy has since confirmed that they provided an emergency travel document for Ibrahim after Hamzah claimed his passport had been ‘lost’.
It had in fact been handed in to the UK government after Ranem applied for asylum and stay in the UK for herself and her son, with temporary travel documents issued instead.
Due to Ranem’s status as a Palestinian, there were only two countries on Ibrahim’s temporary travel documents he could not visit: Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
Ibrahim's travel document (Image: Ranem Elkhalidi)
Hamzah had done all this in secret, and Ranem did not realise anything was wrong until the Monday after he was taken.
She said: “On Monday the school called me and said ‘Ibrahim hasn’t been dropped off at school, we called his dad and no one answered, and his phone is out of service’.
“I was worried about him because I had something in my head saying something was going to happen, he was going to try take him out the country, I told everyone about this. So straight away I called the police.”
Cheshire Police went to check Hamzah’s address in Warrington, and found no one home – and the property empty, with all his and Ibrahim’s clothes and belongings gone.
From this moment Ranem claims she knew her son had been taken out the country. This was confirmed by Hamzah’s family the next day, with every parent’s worst nightmare being confirmed.
The last year has been hell for Ranem on more than one level, with the Palestinian woman’s grandmother dying in the Gaza bombing last week. This, compounded with the loss of Ibrahim, would take an unimaginable toll on anyone.
After a year of therapy and fighting for her son, however, Ranem remains resilient – and wants to continue to fight to bring her son home.
“I want to keep doing this media and keep fighting. At some point, even if it’s two years’ time, he will at some point have a phone, and I want him to maybe see our pictures and articles and see me fighting for him.”
Despite the nightmares, however, she still has beautiful memories of her son.
Ibrahim has been missing for exactly a year today (Image: Ranem Elkhalidi)
Through a mixture of laughing and tears, she told me: “He was such a bubbly boy, he just wanted to go and play with children. He would be silly and want me to play with his hair and put hairstyles in my hair.
“When he was a toddler, he was going to toddler football, he really loved it, and he started watching football and Liverpool, and all his friends were Liverpool fans, so he wanted to wear a shirt like them.
“I remember I was sitting in the front room once and he was just putting makeup all over himself and everywhere.
“He came to me and was like ‘look I’m like you Mum!’ He loved doing this silly stuff, he loved painting, so maybe because he loved painting he was trying to paint.”