Sara and Ammar, two children who fled to the Dutch embassy in Damascus after their father abducted them, have returned to the Netherlands. This comes after months of diplomatic negotiation between the Netherlands and Syria. On hearing the news that they would be coming back, the childrens' mother, Janneke Schoonhoven, rejoiced: "This is going to be a very special Christmas that we will never forget."Understatement.
Ammar (13) and Sara (11) were taken to Syria by their father some two and a half years ago. Their parents were already divorced, and the children were then living with their Dutch mother. After spending two years with their father in Syria, they fled to the Dutch embassy in Damascus, sparking a long period of intensive diplomatic negotiations to bring them back to the Netherlands.Welcome back to the Free World. Welcome back from Sharia. What a great Christmas present.
The affair was legally complicated because the father refused to cooperate, arguing that the children should be allowed to stay with him. An additional difficulty was posed by the enormous difference between the legal systems of the Netherlands and Syria. Under Dutch law, custody of the children had been awarded to the mother after the divorce, but under Syrian family law - which is based on Islamic Sharia law - the father retains authority over any offspring. This means that, were Sara and Ammar to have left the embassy building, there father could have immediately claimed them.