Alexander Khan, 37, from South Coast, England
My parents come from very different backgrounds; my father is from Pakistan and my mother is English. They married in the late sixties at a time when mixed-race marriages were not widely accepted. The relationship was put under considerable pressure by my father’s family, who were unhappy that he married a ‘non-believer’. As the relationship developed, it transpired that my father was in fact already married to another woman in Pakistan. When I was three years old, my parents separated after a few years of marriage.
Following the separation, it was agreed that my mother would have custody of me and my father was granted visiting rights. One day, my father took me out with my mother’s permission. He told her that he was taking me to the park and she willingly let me go, completely unaware that three hours later, my father would be boarding a flight to Pakistan with me.
As I was so young, I don’t remember being abducted and growing up in Pakistan away from my mother felt normal. I lived with my father and his family and spent my formative years without my mother. When I was seven years old, my father decided to move back to the UK and when we arrived, we moved in with my aunt.
My aunt was cruel to me and I don’t have happy memories of living with her, but when I was ten years old, my father’s Pakistani wife and their children moved over to the UK so my father and I left my aunt’s house to live with them. By spending time with my step-family and by watching them interact with their mother, I started to question my father and his family about my mother. Upon questioning, they would tell me that she was a drunkard, promiscuous and not in a fit state to look after me. I believed them and continued to live with my father and my step family.
A few years later, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. I continued to live with my step-family but was unhappy. When I was about twenty years old, I realised that I had to leave the household in order to better myself and get out of a community to which I didn’t feel I belonged.
On leaving home, I joined the British army which gave me a lot of confidence and the strength to realise that I wanted to find my mother. In 2000, I began looking for my mother using the internet.
When I was 33 years old, I found her through an online people tracker after suspecting that she may have been dead. After the initial contact, we began having long phone calls regularly and she welcomed any questions I had and soon said that she wanted to see me. I was amazed to learn that the image that I had of my mother had all been built on lies. She had in fact been looking for me from the moment I disappeared and was not a drunkard or promiscuous. My mother had also been lied to about my whereabouts by my father’s family – she was told that I died in a car crash and had been buried in Pakistan, although she didn’t believe it.
We agreed to meet up and after 30 years of being separated, it was a relief to have finally found my mother. Even now the effects of the abduction are still very apparent in our relationship and the time that we spent apart has had a profound and lasting effect on me.
It is imperative that an abducted child is returned and able to regain contact with their left behind parent in order to minimise the inevitable damage caused by child abduction. Families must use the support available, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Child Abduction Section and charities like Reunite. When I was younger, I was not aware of the support available and only wish that I had known sooner where I could turn to for help.
If you are concerned, or if your child has been abducted, you can contact the FCO’s Child Abduction Section on 0207 008 0878 or www.fco.gov.uk/childabduction, or call Reunite on 0116 2556 234.
Read the FCO news article: Parental Child Abduction is a worldwide problem, 12th December 2012.