A mother whose family is torn apart in an international custody dispute said she spoke with her son on his ninth birthday Sunday, marking the first time she had heard his voice in more than a month.
Heidi Sides Alsaleh said in an e-mail Friday to the Bangor Daily News from Amman, Jordan, that she had hoped her husband, Mohammad Alsaleh, would bring their son, Ahmed, to her to celebrate his birthday. Ahmed and Mohammad have been separated from Heidi and the couple’s two daughters since Mohammad violated a custody agreement and went into hiding with Ahmed last month, according to Heidi.
Heidi and her daughters, Manar, 5, and Sarah, 4, have been living in an apartment in the Middle Eastern country of Jordan for more than a year since Mohammad took the three children there without Heidi’s permission. The custody battle, which was the subject of an article in the Bangor Daily News a week ago, has attracted the attention of members of Maine’s congressional delegation and the U.S. State Department.
Heidi said in an e-mail that she called her husband’s brother on Sunday to ask him to let Ahmed call her and his sisters for his birthday.
“Sunday night Mohammad allowed Ahmed to call us and we all were able to talk to him,” wrote Heidi. “Mohammad sent me pictures of Ahmed at a birthday party that they had for him, so we got to see him as well. He sounded well and the girls were very happy to talk to him! The girls and I are doing pretty well.”
According to Heidi, it is illegal under Jordanian law for her to leave the country with any of the children, who have dual citizenship, as long as Mohammad wants to retain the right to see them. Heidi is battling for custody — as well as a divorce from Mohammad — through legal means and has said she will stay in Jordan indefinitely if that’s what it takes to stay with her children. She said Mohammad is in hiding with Ahmed and that Jordanian authorities are looking for him.
“We are still hoping that they will find him soon,” said Heidi.