I knew parental abductions occurred (and sometimes, much worse), with divorce and custody battles being a triggering point, but I’ve never seen it in such stark focus like in episode nine of the third volume of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries, “Abducted by a Parent.” To actually see and hear the story … it is unbelievably heart-breaking. I just finished the episode and I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around the idea. Like I said, worse outcomes can happen where one of the parents commits a murder-suicide of the children. At least here, the kids are alive and hopefully healthy and happy, as far as that goes. The mystery and lost time is unbearable to imagine, though. Think about it, the parents are kidnapping the children and living with them under assumed names and identities within or outside of the United States. There, and yet not. They’re out there! Alive! Living their lives, week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year, and you’re not with them. Worse, you don’t know where they are and if you will ever see them again. As a parent, how would you continue on like that? It’s excruciating to imagine.
The episode profiled two specific instances:
- Rebecca Downey, the mother of Amina and Belel. She married a man named Ahmed, who grew up in Cairo and was a practicing Muslim. Rebecca grew up as Christian (I think) in Berlin. They married and had their two children on September 1st, 2003, and January 4th, 2006, respectively. Apparently, the 2008 housing crisis and resulting recession hit Ahmed hard because he lost his job and … I guess never really got a job again? He wasn’t the same person, either, Rebecca said. So, she separated from him in June 2013. She said he started moving more conservative from a religions standpoint. On August 28th, 2014, the kids were slated to go to Toronto with him, but Rebecca hoped to hear from Amina on September 1st, as it was her 11th birthday. She never saw or heard from the kids again. Her friend, Daphney Frederique checked Ahmed’s house. Empty. Rebecca called the school (September 2nd was the first day of school). They weren’t there. By September 5th, the police were involved and checked airport records: Ahmed took a flight with the kids from JFK in New York to Kyiv, Ukraine to Istanbul, Turkey. The FBI was involved by 2014 because Ahmed obviously kidnapped two children across state lines and international lines. A federal warrant was issued for him, but I mean … he’s outside of the United States. For all intents and purposes, he’s untouchable, which is where a sense of hopelessness and despair sets in for me as a viewer. I can’t imagine how Rebecca must have felt and still feels. More information about Ahmed turns up that he used money to attend a survivalist camp, join a shooting club and buy camping equipment, all lending to the idea that he pre-planned the kidnapping and pre-planned crossing borders and such. Where was he getting his money, if he was seemingly a bum after 2008, though? Belel’s tablet’s IP address pinged their location as near the Syrian border in Turkey during the Syrian civil war, no less. In September 2015, Ahmed sends Rebecca an email saying the kids are okay living happily on a farm (I call BS) and that it’s essentially her fault for “making” him do this (also BS). She’s used various Turkish and Egyptian detectives to help her find their location to no avail. She’s also been warned off going to Egypt herself because it would be too dangerous. At this point, Amina would have just turned 19 and Belel would be nearing 17. The hope is that they have access to the internet (or even Netflix!) and will be able to see that they are kidnapped children whose mother is looking for them. The worry I have is that a.) they do not have access; and worse, b.) they are brainwashed into not contacting their mother ever again because they believe she’s dead or otherwise awful.
- The second story is just as heartbreaking and devastating. Abdul Khan met Rabia in Alabama and they had a boy together, Aziz, who was born on November 13th, 2010. Rabia also, interestingly, seemed to have financial issues or at least, issues holding down a job. She also didn’t get along with Abdul’s parents in New Orleans. Eventually, in April 2014, they separated, with Rabia wanting to go back to Atlanta. Even though they were separated, it seems like Abdul was under the impression that they were working on their marriage; instead, Rabia served him with divorce papers. From there, a years-long custody battle ensued over Aziz. When it was determined by the courts that Abdul would get custody of Aziz, Rabia made abuse allegations against Abdul in criminal court further lengthening the legal battles. Rabia began showing up in court with someone she knew from high school and who she married, Elliot Bourgeois. They were idiots and represented themselves in court … and lost. After the allegations were deemed false, Abdul was set to get custody of Aziz on November 28th, 2017. But Rabia and Aziz never showed up in court. Come to find out, Aziz hasn’t been at school in two weeks. Like with the Ahmed case, Rabia and Elliot planned the kidnapping for a while, as they closed their bank accounts, sold their vehicles and Elliot quit his job. Because of the custody battle, Abdul hasn’t actually seen Aziz since March 2016, or more than six years. In other words, Abdul has gone without seeing his child longer than he knew his child since birth. That’s extraordinarily sad. Aside from the awful fact of Rabia and Elliot’s kidnapping itself is that for some reason, the most astounding takeaway from this portion of the episode is that it took two years for a federal warrant to be issued on Rabia and to get the United States Marshals involved. As the agent with the service acknowledges, they started the case three years behind the initial kidnapping! Eek. They have questioned Rabia’s parents who (smartly, to be fair) lawyered up. I suspect they know more, though. If there is solace to be found, at least they are presumably still in the United States somewhere, which means they aren’t untouchable, just unfound so far.
I mean, I’m not sure what else there is to say. This was a great, if heartbreaking, episode about a little-covered issue. I sure hope there is a break in both cases and the other cases shown in the scroll at the end.