Mum reunites with daughter taken to Saudi Arabia by dad 17 years ago

Victoria O'Leary with Fatima
-Credit: (Image: Victoria O'Leary)

In a heartwarming reunion, Victoria O'Leary held her daughter in her arms for the first time in 17 years after she was taken to Saudi Arabia by her father under false pretences when she was just a toddler.

Victoria's daughter Fatima, now 19, was whisked away from their home in Cork city to Saudi Arabia by her father in 2007, under the guise of a short holiday. However, once they arrived, he cut contact and his family refused to send Fatima back.

Despite numerous personal trips to Saudi Arabia and countless interactions with government departments over the past 17 years, Victoria was unable to bring her daughter home. But she never gave up.

Throughout their separation, Victoria managed to stay connected with her daughter through social media platforms like Snapchat and WhatsApp, and even sent her money via Revolut. The mother-daughter duo finally reunited last week, marking the end of Victoria's long and arduous journey to bring her little girl home.

In 2023, Fatima took matters into her own hands to make a significant change in her life. Despite the stringent laws in Saudi Arabia, especially for young women, Fatima sought legal help to gain her independence after turning 18, reports Cork Beo.

Victoria made her final trip to Saudi Arabia last month to tie up loose ends and have an emotional reunion with her daughter.

Recalling the moment on the Neil Prenderville Show on RedFM, Victoria shared: "She came to the hotel where I was staying and knocked on the door, and the funny thing is I had a chain on the lock and when I opened the door the chain wouldn't open.

"So there I am trying to break the door open to give her a hug and I eventually got it open and gave her a big massive hug. It was surreal, it was absolutely surreal. She was even in shock, just with a big smile on her face that I was finally standing in front of her."

The support from her parents was invaluable throughout the ordeal, Victoria noted, and the grandparents were ecstatic to meet their granddaughter again when she returned home to Mahon with Victoria.

"They had all of the banners outside the door and you could just see my father bawling crying," Valerie recounted. "And my mother came over and gave her a big hug. They haven't seen her since she was two years old, so it was a big thing for me that they got to meet her again before their time passes."

Fatima expressed her joy at being back in Cork, with rollerblading in Fitzgerald's Park one of the first activities on her to-do list.

Presenting another major adjustment, she now has an older sister. Upon being united with her sister Zahra at the airport - a relation whom she had only briefly known in the past - the moment was overwhelming for both.

Zahra reflected: "It's amazing, it was such a wholesome moment being in the airport, seeing her walk through the doors. I couldn't believe it, I thought this day would never come, so it was nuts."

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