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Suburban mom makes plea for daughters' return

July 21, 2008 3:25:09 PM PDT
A suburban mother makes a public plea Monday for the return of her four daughters. Colleen Bargouthi says the girls are being held - against their will - by their father in the Middle East.

Bargouthi says that Barack Obama may be her best hope for getting her girls back. The children are United States citizens. With the exception of the youngest, they were all born in the US. She is afraid of what will happen to her girls, especially since she has learned that all of them have been designated for arranged marriages.

"My biggest fear is that they'll never come back," said Bargouthi.

Colleen Bargouthi wants her daughters back and hopes Barack Obama will help. The presumptive democratic presidential nominee is scheduled to be in the region Tuesday where the Illinois mother says her estranged husband has been holding her girls against their will for more than six months.

"All I'm asking of him is that he pay a welfare visit, give them a message to find out that they are healthy and happy," said Bargouthi.

Bargouthi's daughter's range in age from five to 11 years old and traveled with their 15-year-old brother, mother and father to his native Palestine in June of 2007 to visit their grandmother. The visit was supposed to be just a six weeks long. The woman says it was around Christmas 2007, after she repeatedly requested to come back to the United States, that her 38-year-old husband Yasser - who she had been married to for 15 years - abruptly announced he was keeping the girls with him in Ramallah and then threw her out of his family's home.

"My husband put two guns to my head and told me I could pick which gun I wanted to be killed with, which one would be better aim and would kill me more quickly and he made it clear that he could kill me and no one would know the difference," said Bargouthi.

Bargouthi says her husband eventually allowed her and the son from her first marriage Yasser legally adopted to leave.

"He would physically punish me and treat me so much differently. It all came out of him," said Rick Bargouthi.

Bargouthi says the United States State Department has said because of the political instability of the region it can do little to help. Bargouthi then contacted Obama's senator office about conducting a welfare check on the girls.

Senator Obama's office issued a statement signed by Michael Ortiz which reads in part, "our office will do everything in its power to ensure that the State Department gives this case the attention that it deserves and that the investigation is conducted in a time sensitive and thorough manner."

"And to know that an American icon, respected throughout the world, speaking on behalf of and trying to reconcile all sides in this conflict is within miles or yards, we don't know, of their house, and will not raise the issue," said Bob Pavich, Barghouti attorney.

Bargouthi says her husband has divorced her in his native Palestine and plans to remarry a Muslim woman.

In the last few months, Barghouti has been allowed to monitor phone conversations with the girls.

ABC7 made several phone calls to the United States State Department and the representative Barghouti contacted. They did not return the calls.


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