A mother’s cry for help: Bring Eli home

Samantha Worgull

Sara Edwards was a good mother.

She had a son, Eli, who she adored more than anything. She read him bedtime stories and taught him normal things that parents teach their children.

On March 4, 2010, those normal things were soon to be at a distance. On this day, Edwards sent her son on a trip to Kayseri, Turkey, with his father, Muhammed Kiraz.

After a separation in January, Edwards wanted to make sure her son would return to her arms.

“It crossed my mind to have him granted permission but that just seemed like a pretty normal thing to do,” Edwards said. “Here’s my permission and here’s your promise.”

Edwards granted Kiraz permission by the means of a written agreement stating that Eli would return on May 4, 2010, shortly before her niece’s birthday party.

He broke that promise.

“I feel completely snowed and blindsided, I guess is the right word,” she said. “Even after they had embarked on their visit, I still got to see my son every day on the webcam and read him bedtime stories like nothing was wrong. I had no indication at all that he wouldn’t come back.”

A perception gone awry

Edwards and Kiraz both attended Kent State. There were many things that attracted Edwards to him.

“He was always kind of severe, and by that I mean like he just knew what he believed, and that was refreshing,” she said. “But now it looks like an uncompromising thing where it’s his way or no way.”

Edwards also enjoyed the closeness that Turkish families shared. Kiraz had a strong sense of family values and being one unit, she said.

Edwards’ sister, Monica Fidel, also shared a certain closeness with the couple.

“That was a hard thing to deal with was how close my husband and Kiraz were,” Fidel said. “And what’s even harder is missing out on Eli growing up.”

Edwards has been staying with her sister in Akron since the separation.

“I think there is certain stability in being with your family,” Fidel said. “It’s nice to be able to come home and share how your day went with someone you know cares.”

A mother’s intuition becomes reality

On March 22, 2010, in a live webcam chat with her son, Edwards noticed Kiraz was acting strange.

“Immediately a light went off — he had something brewing in him and he was dumping,” she said. “I started to get in touch with the Turkish consulate, the American embassy and anyone I could in the state department who could get the case open.”

The very next day, she decided to call her husband on the webcam anyway, pretending like nothing happened. She thought if he had calmed down, maybe she would have a reasonable chance to talk it out.

He said it was already done.

“It was piecing together that he had planned this, and that at that time he felt very comfortable,” Edwards said.

He already had a ruling from a Turkish judge, granting him custody. Kiraz went behind Edwards’ back and filed for divorce and custody in his hometown in Turkey.

That Friday, March 26, Edwards filed a missing persons case and started her case in the Ohio Court for custody.

“I didn’t sleep at all that first week,” she said. “I was calling everybody telling them ‘I need you now, I need you to call me back now, I don’t care who’s on lunch I need you now’.”

With help from attorneys and $10,000 raised by fundraisers, Edwards had a ruling in the Ohio Courts for her son to be returned.

Kiraz has not done so.

The next step

“No one’s helping me,” Edwards said. “This is something you kind of learn on your own.”

She does, however, have support at home.

“Pulling on our different strengths both of us have is important,” Fidel said. “I can’t imagine life putting her through anything worse than losing your son.”

The next step in Edwards’ fight would be to get her application filed with the U.S. State Department for the return of her son through The Hague Abduction Convention.

The Hague Abduction Convention is the primary legal mechanism for parents seeking the return of children from other treaty partner countries.

“There’s no enforcement arm in Ohio,” Edwards said. “They could have ordered an arrest warrant, but that could possibly inhibit a Turkish judge, in the international case, to order my son back.”

Edwards estimates that this journey could cost between $50,000 and $100,000. Without the help of others, she can’t go much further.

A regular plane ticket to Turkey costs about $1,500, and once she gets over there and begins her battle, unexpected things could happen.

“My biggest fear would be maneuvering in a place where I don’t know the language and I don’t know the system,” she said. “But I’m six months in now, and I know that this is going to be a long haul.”

Every little bit helps.

Edwards held three rummage sales over the summer that raised more than $9,000. The next benefit is a golf scramble on Oct. 3 and details about the benefit are on Edwards’ website www.bringelihome.com.

“It is a really strong case, but there are a lot of unknowns,” she said.

And with a lot of unknowns, come a lot of unexpected costs. Not worrying about the money would be nice, but it’s an issue.

Edwards said she trys to relax by being outside in nature, hiking and canoeing.

“It’s pretty much a one shot deal,” she said. “And someday, when my boy comes home, I need to be a whole person.”

Contact Samantha Worgull [email protected].