Wales

Safia Saleh: 'Bring my abducted sister home from Yemen'

Safia Saleh, as a baby Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Safia Saleh was abducted when she was a baby

The family of a woman abducted and taken to Yemen as a baby want the UK government to help her return to Wales.

Safia Saleh, now 34, is married with four children - but the family fled war-torn Yemen on Christmas Eve as their hometown was bombed.

Her half sister Lucy Hewer, 30, from Cardiff, said they need a visa and emergency passports to get into the UK.

The Foreign Office are "assisting a British woman and her family in Cairo apply for UK travel documents."

In 1986, aged 18-months, Safia and her sisters Rahannah, five and Nadia, four, were abducted by their father.

Sadek Saleh, a Yemen national, told his estranged wife, the girls' mother Jackie Saleh, he was taking them to stay at his father's house in nearby Roath for a night but never returned.

Image copyright Safia Saleh
Image caption Safia Saleh, her husband and children aged 12, 11, 10 and two, are trying to get to the UK

Interpol searches traced him to Yemen, where all leads were lost.

Despite meetings with the UK government and the then first minister Rhodri Morgan, Mrs Saleh was unable to trace them.

But in 2001, she received a letter written in Arabic from her eldest daughter Rahannah.

It led to her travelling to Yemen to meet her children for the first time in 15 years.

In 2007, Nadia died in childbirth and her father died shortly after.

Image copyright Jackie Saleh
Image caption Safia and her sisters Rahannah and Nadia (pictured) were abducted in 1986

Ms Hewer described contact with Rahannah as "patchy", saying attempts to get her husband a visa to come to the UK have failed.

But Safia wants to return to the UK and bought flights out of Yemen with husband Labib and her children after relatives set up a crowdfunding page.

Ms Hewer said life was very dangerous living near Hodeidah, which is being bombed by Saudi Arabian warplanes as they battle Houthi rebels that took over much of the country.

"She couldn't leave the house", she said.

"The house was like a bomb shelter.

Image copyright Jackie Saleh
Image caption Sadek Saleh abducted his children and took them to Yemen

"If she went anywhere she had to go with her husband. Her children were limited to the house every day... they couldn't go out to play - she feared they would be killed or kidnapped."

They now have temporary accommodation in Egypt and are trying to secure their passage to the UK.

However, they have been turned away by security on their attempts to visit the British Embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.

Ms Hewer said Safia has her British birth certificate and documentation needed for her children but they need a visa for her husband.

"We don't want them to be split up as a family," she added.

"They're in a love marriage and happy so it would be really heartbreaking."

Image copyright Safia Saleh
Image caption Safia Saleh and her two-year-old Asalah on the plane from Yemen

Yemen is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for children after Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, according to Save the Children.

Thirty-two years on from when the sisters were first abducted, Ms Hewer said she and her mother are exhausted.

"It has been absolutely horrendous," she said.

"It has taken its toll emotionally on my mum. She finds it very draining."

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