First Published: 2012-04-17


Child abductions on the rise in Egypt


New child abduction case is reported every day in Egypt mainly for organs, ransom money.


Middle East Online

Parents on alert (IRIN)

CAIRO - A coalition of 100 Egyptian child rights advocacy groups is intensifying its pressure on the government to take measures to counter rising child abductions across the country, threatening to resort to the UN if the government does not take action.

“The government does not attach enough importance to the problems suffered by children,” Hani Helal, secretary-general of the Egyptian Coalition on Children’s Rights, told IRIN. “This leads to increasing violations against the children. But if the government does not act now, we will have to take the matter to the UN.”

A noticeable rise in child abductions has swept through the country, with the media reporting a new child abduction case every day - either in the capital Cairo or in the other governorates, putting parents on alert and challenging the police service.

The Interior Ministry has not given exact figures about the rise in child abductions, but independent security experts say it has increased as much as threefold since a popular uprising ousted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The political transition has been accompanied by an almost total collapse of Egypt’s security system, with police absent from the streets for extended periods of time.

“The kidnapping of children has become a very worrying phenomenon,” ex-policeman and security expert Maher Zakhry told IRIN. “Our country’s deteriorating security conditions make this crime more possible.”

Egypt’s National Motherhood and Childhood Council called on the government to take action against what it described as a “rising crescendo of child abductions”, warning against the serious consequences of turning a blind eye to the problem. The council has launched a new hotline service through which it can receive complaints by parents, refer them to police and better lobby the government.

The Coalition on Children’s Rights says the number of calls about abductions it receives from parents has increased 300 percent - from one or two a day before the revolution, to six or seven on some days now. Helal says most of the people who call his coalition are poor and have no connections. They come from all governorates, but more often from Cairo and the coastal city of Alexandria. Most of the kidnappers know the families of the children they abduct, he added.

“We have major difficulties dealing with the government, which does not view children as first-rate citizens like everybody else,” Helal said. “But what I want to say to the government is that its silence will encourage criminals to kidnap even more children in the future.”

Advocates are calling for tougher action by the government against criminals; a larger police presence on the streets; and laws that would increase punishments for those who violate children’s rights. Many Egyptians, especially activists involved in the revolution, believe the government is intentionally neglecting safety and security to increase a desire for “the good old days” under Mubarak and to justify the continued rule of the military council that took over after Mubarak left.


Anecdotal evidence appears to indicate two main motives for the abductions - body organs and ransom money.

When Hayam Rabie left her one-year-old daughter, Alia, with neighbours in a vegetable shop while doing some shopping, it did not cross her mind that she would never see her again.

But when Rabie, a mother of two from the poor village of Damleeg in the agricultural governorate of Sharqia in the Nile Delta, came back one hour later, she could not find her daughter.

That was one year ago.

“Until four months ago, I had hopes that I could find my daughter,” Rabie said. “But this hope turned to be a mere illusion.”

Rabie discovered that one of her neighbours had kidnapped the girl, hid her inside her home for few days, and then killed her before she put her body in a sack and threw it in a village canal.

Mahmud Al Badawi, head of local NGO Egyptian Society for the Assistance of Juveniles and Human Rights, says child abductions and organ trafficking are strongly interconnected in Egypt.

When Rabie’s relatives and neighbours broke into the house of her daughter’s kidnapper, they found empty blood bags, syringes and tubes.

“Nobody understood why an uneducated woman would need these tools,” Abdel Aleem Al Guindy, the girl’s father, said.

The mother of a child kidnapped in Alexandria told private Al Nahar TV in February that her son heard children screaming and calling for help while held by his kidnappers. His parents paid a ransom to get him back.

“One of the kidnappers told my son that the children would be sold to body organ traders,” the mother said.


Security experts say most kidnappers demand a ransom from the parents of abducted children - starting at 5,000 Egyptian pounds (US$833) and going up to six million pounds (US$1 million), if kidnapped children’s parents are wealthy enough.

A famous construction mogul had to pay two million Egyptian pounds (US$333,000) in February to secure the release of his two grandchildren.

“As a sign of Egypt’s deteriorating security conditions, child abductions have become an easy way for criminals to make money,” ex-policeman Zakhary said.

He advises parents not pay ransoms, and instead to report the kidnappings to police. But child rights activists say the police do not have a very good track record of arresting or prosecuting kidnappers, and have only succeeded in rescuing children in a few cases.

In April 2011, police arrested five suspects in relation to the kidnapping of the daughter of Effat Sadat, a businessman and the nephew of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, but only after Sadat paid the kidnappers five million pounds (US$833,000).

“Poorer parents, however, cannot find the money necessary for the return of their children,” said Al Badawi of the juveniles’ society. “This is why many of the abductions go unreported because the parents are simply not connected.”



Iraq forces press Mosul assault

Clashes, air strikes end Aleppo ceasefire

UN call to extend Yemen truce falls on deaf ears

Turkey reports over 35,000 people in detention after coup attempt

In violation of constitution, Iraq parliament votes to ban alcohol

French FM annoys Turkey by contrasting states of emergency

UN planning for 150,000 displaced by Mosul battle

UAE jails Sudanese man for planning attacks on immigrants

Qatar in 3 days of mourning for former emir

16 civilians dead in bombardment of Syria's rebel-held Idlib

Civilians suffer in IS 'smoke war'

74 jihadists dead after IS assault on Kirkuk

Nearly 100 civilians dead in Turkey-backed Syria op

Kuwait says more work required to counter IS funding

Mosul refugees under IS fire at Syrian border

Morocco king calls for public administration reform

Israeli air force strikes Gaza

Russia not considering renewing Aleppo ceasefire

Israel minister: ‘we will completely destroy’ Gaza in next war

Mosul battle sees highest number of US air strikes yet

Palestinians free four held after visiting settlement during Sukkot

IS executes five Iraqis in western town

Baghdad denies Ankara taking part in Mosul operation

Iraq forces fight to tighten noose around Mosul

Turkey hits Kurdish group in Syria again

Kremlin aims to 'liberate' Syria with Assad in power

Egypt court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

Turkey PM warns EU: Turkey has alternatives!

Battles rage in Yemen despite three-day truce

For second day, Iraq forces clash with ISIS in Kirkuk

New report accuses Syria of chemical attack in Qmenas village

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances