A Boston man was finally reunited with his two sons 13 months after his ex-wife allegedly smuggled them out of the U.S. and into her native Egypt. But what should have been one of the happiest days of his life turned out to be an exercise in heartbreak and futility.
“I was down on one knee; I was looking for an embrace, I was looking for any sense of connection,” Colin Bower told Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview live on TODAY Tuesday. “They completely avoided me.”
Bower said he firmly believes his sons, 9-year-old Noor and 7-year-old Ramsay, are victims of brainwashing at the hands of their mother, Mirvat el Nady, and her family. During the Sept. 20 meeting, Noor and Ramsay continually looked at their mother and uncles for direction in how to deal with their dad, Bower told Lauer.
For custody dad, a sad Egypt reunion
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“It’s clearly child abuse,” he said. “They’ve been kidnapped. They were clearly being told what to say. They were told they were going to be watched, and they were told they were going to be held accountable for what they did in the meeting.”
In his 2008 divorce from el Nady, U.S. courts awarded Bower full custody of the couple’s sons. Citing a drug problem on el Nady’s part, courts forbade her from being in a car with Noor and Ramsay and said she could not leave the state of Massachusetts with them.
But a little more than a year after their divorce, she not only left the state with the boys — she left the country. Bower handed his sons over to el Nady on August 9, 2009, for a visitation. Two days later, she boarded a flight with Noor and Ramsay using forged Egyptian passports bearing the name “Power.”
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El Nady is now a fugitive from justice, wanted on international warrants for kidnapping. Yet she apparently has a safe haven in her native Egypt with her sons. Egyptian courts granted Bower visitation with his sons, but he was thwarted in six previous trips to Cairo to see them. Finally, on the seventh trip, he met with them.Video: Dad shares heartbreaking reunion with sons (on this page)
NBC accompanied Bower to Egypt for the meeting, and when he exited the 30-minute session, tears were streaming down his face. “They sat next to their two uncles and held their hands and stayed pretty much away from me,” he told NBC. “So it was very, very sad, very, very sad.
“This is the severest form of child abuse, when you get your children abducted. You can see the harm. I felt them harmed. They were not the same children.”
Speaking on TODAY Tuesday, Bower told Lauer he has another visitation session scheduled for Oct. 8, but that he “won’t go through a meeting like that again.” When Lauer asked him whether that might preempt him from seeing his sons at all, Bower said he has the law — both international and Egyptian law — on his side.
“I have court-ordered visitation rights in Egypt, which my ex-wife has not complied with,” he said. “I have the right to see these boys without supervision.”
Bower knows he has a fight on his hands to regain his sons, but he continues plugging away. He has lobbied the State Department and enlisted the help of his Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry to force his wife to release his sons. And he’s been loud and clear in voicing the belief the U.S. isn’t doing enough to bring his sons back home.Video: Father: Ex-wife smuggled our kids to Egypt (on this page)
“The State Department has a role, and it’s to protect U.S. interests,” he told NBC. “We give the Egyptian government a zillion and a half dollars and we are sitting there and saying, basically, they are allowed to sponsor crime against a U.S. citizen.”
Bower also recently sent a letter to Egyptian officials demanding the immediate release of Noor and Ramsay, citing it a “humanitarian matter.” Appearing with Bower on TODAY, Bower’s attorney, Barry Pollack, said he believes el Nady belongs back in the U.S. — and back before a judge.
“If government officials here do their job, the kids could be back home within weeks,” Pollack told Lauer. “El Nady could be facing criminal charges. She committed kidnapping: That’s a crime. Passport fraud is a crime.”
And, Bower added, el Nady and her family demanded money from him during their Sept. 20 meeting, which Pollack said amounts to extortion.
While Bower remains undeterred in believing he will regain his sons, there remains the question of their mental state. During his meeting with his sons, Bower said they told him they didn’t want to return to the U.S. “because they didn’t feel safe.”
Still, Bower told Lauer he believes once he has Noor and Ramsay back, counseling and a father’s love can make them whole again. “I’ve talked to a number of child therapists that are familiar with this issue, and I think that is something that could be dealt with quite quickly,” he said.
“I think the boys are coping; they’re doing what they can to stay alive within the environment that they are currently inhabiting, and I think they need to continue to cope.”
Visit Colin Bower’s Facebook pagehere.
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