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Boston Herald - Egypt Enables Ongoing Abduction

Op-Ed

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By Senator John Kerry

Being a parent is the greatest joy and the greatest responsibility we ever know in life.

It's almost indescribable how much your life changes the day your child comes into this world and you realize that, from that day forward, you're responsible for another life that depends on you.

You can't help but lie awake watching your newborn's chest rise and fall -- just to make sure the baby's still breathing. You take your kid to that first day of school and find yourself looking back again and again as the school door closes behind them, just to make sure they're safe. You have dreams for your children -- dreams that they'll be healthy and happy, and you hope that you can protect them always, even when you know that's not possible.

For Colin Bower, just another father from Newton, those dreams became a nightmare three years ago when his two boys -- Noor and Ramsay -- were kidnapped by their mother and taken illegally to Egypt.

The story of international child abduction is all too common -- a heart-wrenching crime that damages family structures and leaves psychological scars on the children and left behind parents.

In 2011 alone, the State Department reports 1,367 children newly abducted from or wrongfully retained outside of the United States. In 2010, the number was even higher: 1,492.

But for me and for many of us in Massachusetts, this crime has a human and familiar face -- and that's Colin, a dad I've gotten to know well these past years as we've struggled with multiple Egyptian governments to try and reunite him with his sons.

In Bower's case, the facts are not in dispute, and they are alarming.

In August 2009, Noor and Ramsay Bower were just 6 and 8 years old at the time of their abduction. Colin Bower had full, legal custody of his sons in Massachusetts, yet Noor and Ramsay's mother illegally changed their names, acquired Egyptian passports, paid cash for a one-way plane ticket, and abducted them.

Today, almost three years later, Colin has suffered very limited access to his children. The boys, now 9 and 11, have only seen their father a handful of times since their abduction. Nothing can bring those lost years back to a father and his sons, but something must now change to end this awful separation.

Egypt, as everyone knows, is still undergoing dramatic and unprecedented revolution and volatility. After my first calls and meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Bower's behalf, my next call was to then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. It ended in a shouting match, as it became clear Mubarak would do nothing to intercede and, in fact, he was determined to protect the abductors who had ties to his corrupt, crony regime.

After Mubarak's fall from power, interventions, face- to-face visits and direct pleas to the transitional government made a difference at least in helping make possible a visit with the boys for their father in Cairo.

Now, with a fledgling democracy and a struggling economy in Egypt, we are again working with an enormously capable U.S. ambassador, Anne Patterson, to try and finally finish the job and achieve justice for Colin Bower and his sons.

The path forward isn't easy, and no doubt it will require both patience and persistence -- the latter of which we have in abundance, the former nearly exhausted. But tenacity and more is required to complete this job and help a nascent government in Egypt to see the importance of facilitating the return of two abducted children and ending the nightmare that Colin Bower is living each day. The rule of law must mean something, and respect for law cannot end at a border.

This year marked the third Father's Day in a row that Bower has spent without his boys. Now is the time to keep doing the difficult work of diplomacy and engagement to ensure it's the last one.

John Kerry (D) is the senior senator from Massachusetts.


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