Mum pleads for British-born daughters kidnapped and trafficked to Yemen as children to be allowed home for christmas
A mum is calling for the UK government to intervene to bring her British-born daughters home for Christmas – after they were kidnapped and trafficked to Yemen by their father.
Jackie Morgan, from Cardiff, Wales, met her former husband Sadek Saleh aged 15 before marrying him several years later.
But their relationship soon turned sour, with Jackie becoming a victim of violence and domestic abuse and fleeing to a woman’s refuge before returning to her husband so their three children, all born in the UK, didn’t suffer.
In May 1986, Sadek said he was taking the couple’s daughters Nadia, four, Safia, 18 months, and Rahannah, six, to visit a relative in Cardiff but failed to return – instead fleeing the country via Saudi Arabia before reaching his homeland, Yemen.
From Yemen, he wrote to Jackie informing her of her daughters’ location and telling her she would never see their children again as they would live their lives as ‘good Muslim women’.
Tragically, the girls were told Jackie had died and the three sisters were not allowed to speak about their mother without facing beatings from Sadek before Nadia died in childbirth in 2011.
Safia, now 34, and Rahannah, now 38, who are British citizens, are now desperate to escape the war-torn country with their own four children, Mohammed, 12, Jacqueline, 11, Lucy, 10 and Asalah, two, so Jackie is calling on the UK government to help bring them home.
Mum-of-four Jackie, who still lives in Cardiff with her daughter Lucy, 30, from a new relationship, said: “I was devastated, I didn’t even think something like this could happen.
“He wasn’t working at the time, so I have no idea how he managed to get the money or how he even managed to get them out of the country.
“The community his family lived in were really closed off and refused to let me know anything.
“Sadek would frequently beat them and they were not allowed to speak about mum.
“Rahannah knew from the day she left who mum was, she had never forgotten her.
“She eventually told Nadia about what had happened despite Sadek telling them mum had died.”
Jackie claims Sadek’s family initially stayed in Cardiff after he fled the country but refused to communicate with Jackie before also returning to the Yemen.
Despite safety warnings, in 2002 Jackie flew to the country to reunite with her three daughters – taking British passports for them – but was forced to leave when Sadek found out she was in the country and began threatening her.
In 2007 Rahannah and Nadia, who both married and had children of their own, spent three months visiting the UK after Jackie paid for them to visit, but Safia was not allowed to come to the country by Sadek.
But despite loving their time spent in the UK, the sisters were forced to return to the Yemen after their three month stay as their husbands and children were there.
In 2011, Jackie heard Sadek, who remarried several times, had died in a road traffic collision.
But tragically, the same year Nadia passed away while giving birth to her fourth child.
Civil war in the country has escalated since 2015 and an estimated 15,000 people have been killed with around 100,000 forced to flee their homes.
Rahannah still lives in Yemen with her husband and two children but her communication with Jackie is minimal due to the internet signal being weak where she is, making Skype impossible.
But to the surprise of Jackie and Lucy, Safia’s husband Labeb found Jackie online and reached out to her via Skype.
As Safia and her family suffer from typhoid and cannot afford food, Labeb is hoping to move to the UK with his wife and four children, but despite his love for his wife, he has stated he will let Safia and their children leave Yemen without him if this is the only way they can relocate to the UK for a safer and healthier life.
Jackie said: “I haven’t grieved for Nadia yet.
“As per the tradition in their community, she was buried by sunset, so I didn’t have chance to say goodbye to her, it’s been incredibly difficult.
“But we speak with Safia every day now via WhatsApp and FaceTime. We have a family friend who translates for us.
“Her English is actually amazing, she’s getting a lot better with it. We talk about our favourite foods and what else she likes.
“We show each other what toys we have, our Christmas Tree and my dog, Lola. Her kids always ask if they can see Lola, they love her.”
Speaking about her life in Yemen via a Skype video, Safia said: “My life is full of fear and anxiety because we keep moving from the areas of bombardments and child kidnappings.
“We’re constantly moving houses most of the time because of instability in all regions.”
Lucy said: “Mum felt so much relief when Sadek died.
“Safia is the double of our mum, she loves makeup and she’s constantly putting lipstick on when mum does.
“The situation in the Yemen now is unbelievable – it is an actual war zone.”
Lucy said she could not believe how shocked her sisters were when they visited a supermarket during their visit to the UK in 2007, with the pair instantly falling to their knees with happiness and shock due to the sheer amount of food.
She added: “When they came over in 2007, they were so loving – although it had been 21 years, it was as though they’d never left.
“The love between mum and my sisters had never stopped.
“People ask me if it was shocking because of the culture differences, but it was never an issue.
“When they came over here, they took their hijabs off and were just so happy to be here. The colours of their clothes had such personality.”
Jackie and Lucy are now backing a crowdfunding page set up by Welsh Assembly Minister, Neil McAvoy.
They want to raise £6,000 to return Rahannah and Safia and their children and husbands back to the UK forever via Egypt in time for Christmas.
Neil McAvoy, whose grandfather is from the Yemen, said: “It’s really appalling the Foreign Office won’t do anything to help Safia.
“I like to think that the one thing you can rely on the British Government to do is try to get you out of a war zone. But they won’t.
“It’s great that the community is pulling together to bring Safia home. So many people have donated already. It’s really hard to get out of the Yemen.
“The flights are very irregular and expensive. You just get the call and then you have to leave immediately for the airport. Then you can fly to Egypt and get a flight to the UK.
“Jackie and Safia have been through so much and I really hope they can be reunited before this Christmas.”