Pennsylvania Mom Kalli Atteya Goes Undercover in Egypt to Rescue Kidnapped Son
A Pennsylvania woman whose 11-year-old son was allegedly kidnapped by his Egyptian father and forced into Islam traveled to the North African nation, stalking him for months while wearing a traditional Muslim veil before successfully rescuing the boy.
The Huffington Post reports that 45-year-old Kalliopi “Kalli” Atteya of Fayetteville and her son Khalil Mohamed “Niko” Atteya, then 11, traveled to Egypt on a family vacation in August 2011. While there, they visited Mohamed Atteya, Kalli’s ex-husband and the boy’s biological– but non-custodial– father. As Kalli, her sister, Niko and Mohamed were getting into a Cairo taxi to go visit another relative, the boy’s father allegedly pushed the mother away from the vehicle and ordered the driver to take off. Kalli and her sister were left standing on the side of the road.
“[Niko] was pounding on the back window… screaming for me and his aunt,” Kalli told the Chicago Tribune. The distraught mother described losing her son as “a living death.”
“You know, I’m walking, I’m breathing, but it’s nothing,” she told the Tribune.
According to Fox News, Kalli spent more than $100,000 trying to get Niko back, to no avail. She then decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I had already lost everything,” she told Public Opinion. “I had nothing to lose.”
Kalli returned to Egypt and hired a local guide. She disguised herself by donning a niqab, the traditional veil worn by many Muslim women. It wasn’t long before she tracked down Niko and Mohamed.
“I followed him,” she told Fox News. “I mean, I came really close to him several different times. [Mohamed] didn’t recognize me, but my son did, and when he saw me for the first time, he turned pale.”
For months Kalli stalked her son. She patiently observed Mohamed as he took the boy to school each day. Finally, on March 14, she decided to make her move. The Herald-Mail reports that Kalli rescued Niko as he was getting off a school bus.
“I was really nervous, but I was bound and determined to take my son,” she told Fox News.
“My first reaction was [to wonder] if that was my mom or not, and then I saw her eyes,” Niko told Fox News. “I thought, thank God, I’m finally going to get out of here. I’m going to be free.”
“I dressed him up as a girl,” Kalli told Public Opinion. “We made it back to a safe house.”
And then back to the United States.
According to Niko, Mohamed forced him to practice Islam against his will.
Although he is safely back in Pennsylvania, he still fears that his father will find him and drag him back to Egypt.
“Niko is ecstatic [to be home], but at the same time he’s scared,” aunt Olga Panagos-Kriska told the Herald-Mail.