We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Baby buying in Egypt

As I’ve written about before on this blog, and as people have discussed in comments, international adoption from Egypt doesn’t really happen. Not legally anyway. (Domestic adoption, at least in the western understanding, doesn’t exist either.)

But there are rumors of baby buying rings. And now it seems like some Americans are caught up in one such scenario.

This was first covered in the Egyptian press, and then Reuters picked it up, including in two good stories, one that focused more on the news and one that focused on one of the jailed couples.

According to Reuters, the couple from Durham, North Carolina, an American citizen and a green card holder with Egyptian citizenship, paid an orphanage $4,673 dollars for two infants and received forged papers listing them as the birth parents. They brought these papers to the US Embassy, to get (edited) some sort of official paperwork. The Embassy fished out the truth and turned the couple over to Egyptian authorities.

Apparently there are also two other couples who arrested around the same time, with similar charges.

The local news channel in Raleigh covered the couple’s first appearance in court on Saturday. This couples faces jail time of up to 15 years.

The real victims are the four children, now back in Egyptian orphanages. I wonder about their first moms. Did they sell these kids knowingly, thinking they’d have a better life as Americans?

A friend of mine here speculated that because so many things in Egypt, even legal processes, require a little baksheesh (a tip or bribe), perhaps this couple thought it was all legal.

But in case anyone is still wondering: you may not adopt (or buy) children from Egypt.

Edit on March 23: Please note that there are some very strongly worded comments on this post, some of which may come across as anti-Islamic. These are not my opinions, but I generally allow comments as long as the language is somewhat respectful. I’d be interested to hear folks’ responses to Mary’s comments.


17 March 2009 - Posted by | adoption, in the news


  1. The US really needs to reform laws to allow for internal adoption. It’s good when foreign children are saved, but the whole process is a mess. US children are left behind because it is too difficult for them to be adopted, and reform elsewhere is put off because kids adopted out bring in funds… it’s, well, a mess, and it’s the kids who suffer.

    Comment by Connie | 17 March 2009

  2. Connie, first of all, it’s not clear if these folks attempted to adopt within the US. You’re right it can be challenging, but I can assure you that international adoption is also extraordinarily difficult and full of complicated paperwork and processes.

    Also, there is quite a bit of domestic adoption in the US already. According to Adoptive Families magazine, 25,000-30,000 newborn infants in the US are adopted each year, far more than the total number of children adopted internationally into the US. And that doesn’t include the many adoptions of older children from the foster system. I know the system isn’t perfect, but infants in the US do not languish without homes.

    Also, those “foreign children”–well, those are my kids. Every child deserves a family, not just American kids.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 17 March 2009

  3. My heart goes out to the children. I wish adoption was allowed and regulated in Egypt, it would do a world of good for the kids. Ms.Four is right, international adoption is extremely complicated. People automatically think that a lot of us adopted internationally because it is simpler. It is not. Also please refrain from calling them foreign children, they are simply–children.

    Comment by Yoli | 17 March 2009

  4. My sister is in one of the “US couples” accused. She is a US citizen who has been living in Cairo since 2005 with her husband who is an Egyptian national. They are Christian, and thought they were adopting an abandoned child through the Coptic church. As far as I know, no money changed hands when they adopted a boy in March 2008 as a newborn. I believe they only wanted to give a child a good home and security and a chance at a better life than that of a street kid or growing up in an orphanage. They had planned to continue living in Egypt; my sister wanted to bring the child to visit our mother when our mother ws having major surgery in the US.
    Now my sister and her husband have been in custody since 12/16/08, the child has been taken and I don’t know if there is any way to find out his parentage at this point, or who will care for him as my sister and her husband did. I believe my sister and her husband thought they were doing some good for an abandoned child. I hope these good intentions can be emphasized as more details about these cases come to light.

    Comment by karen | 17 March 2009

  5. Karen, thank you so much for commenting here. I am so sorry to hear about your sister’s situation–and especially for the baby. How terrible! I actually thought that what your sister was doing was legal–at least, as long as it’s done with the help and consent of the US government and doesn’t involve any fraudulent paperwork.

    What is the charge against her? Did the baby have an Egyptian passport?

    This is terrible.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 17 March 2009

  6. Yes, the situation is truly terrible. I believe my sister and her husband, much like the other couple in the article from Reuters, thought they were legally adopting through the Coptic church, but the paperwork they received with the “adoption” was fraudulent. My sister was attempting to get the child a US passport for travel and presented papers to the US Embassy, which were then discovered as forgeries. The US Embassy turned them over to the Egyptian authorities, who arrested many others–doctors, nurses among them– as well. I believe the child has an Egyptian passport. I don’t think my sister and her husband consulted with the US Embassy prior to pursuing adoption in Egypt, or anyone outside the church. As you can imagine, I wish my sister had been more aware of the cultural differences and constrictions of this issue before going forward. I am heartsick about this child who has only known my sister and her husband and his family for the first 10 months of his life, being taken from the only family he has known and into a very uncertain future.

    Comment by karen | 17 March 2009

  7. The reason adoption is not allowed goes back to islamic sharia. The reason islam does not allow adoption is that muhammed had his eyes on the wife of his adopted son. This led the son to divorce his wife to give her to muhammed, who so willingly added her to his other wives. When muhammed was asked how he could marry the wife of his adopted son!, muhammed (to save the water of his face and justify this disgusting crime of lusting for the wife of his adopted son) said that the adopted son is not considered a son!!!! Thus adoption (which is supposed to consider a child as if s/he were one’s own biological son/daughter)is not allowed in islam!!!. Yes this is the shocking origin of the adoption law in islam. In other words, this law was initiated in islam to justify the violation against the adopted child’s natural rights, as what muhammed did to this adopted son, by shamelessly taking away his wife.

    Comment by Mary | 23 March 2009

  8. My heart goes out to the victims: both parents and children. They are christian parents who adopted christian orphans, but they fell victims of the islamic sharia, which does not rise up to the decent and refined perception of adoption, in terms of treating an adopted child as if s/he were the offspring of one’s own flesh.
    God be with them and save them all

    Comment by Mary | 23 March 2009

  9. It is indeed a very disgusting game that the egyptian court is playing by putting those innocent couples on trial with cases of human trafficking in order to mix papers together and imply that those innocent couples are involved in human trafficking and prostitution !!!!! They are only adopting and not BUYING babies as the court would like to put it. They are not buying the babies and selling them, they are adopting those orphaned babies to raise them in dignity and love. Very dirty game from the islamically-ruled egyptian court

    Comment by Mary | 23 March 2009

  10. Mary, it’s important to note that these couples were adopting as Americans, and the only problems they encountered were when they tried to leave the country with the children. I believe this kind of informal adoption happens often amongst Egyptian Christians. But these folks are not Egyptians, at least not all of them–they are obligated to follow US laws as regards to adoption and immigration.

    You said that these people weren’t buying babies: the Durham couple paid quite a bit to “adopt” the two babies. Where did that money go?

    Comment by Ms. Four | 23 March 2009

  11. I’ve worked for/with an orphanage in India for the past 9 years, and have run into a bunch of situations like “the other” Karen’s. It’s really sad, and the adoptive parents are generally wonderful people!
    What has happened with us (and other orphanages in India) is that a) either and orphaned child has been cared for by aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc., who have now decided to give him or her up or b) the child isn’t really an orphan, but rather one child more than the number the parents decide they want to care for. Either way, the child is in need of some sort of aid.
    For cultural reasons that I haven’t really figured out, the remaining family decides that they deserve money for the “transaction.” I think it may be desperation in a lot of cases. It’s just tragic for everyone involved, really.

    Comment by Karen | 26 March 2009

  12. Karen, that is really sad. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 27 March 2009

  13. Hi Karen, I read your posts on this site. I am a journalist in Egypt with an American news agency. I would like to get in touch with you. Do you mind contacting me at annalaureen@hotmail.com ?
    Thank you.

    Comment by Anna | 27 March 2009

  14. Ms. Four, what do you think or predict will happen to the Durham couple and the rest of the couples trying to adopt in Egypt? I believe that they postponed the Court date to next mid next month..will the Egyptian Athorities hear their cries of innocence or they will be punished to set example to the rest? Is having the story in the media helpful, so that people can hear the story of the accused not just the Prosecutors.
    How long do you think this case drag and what can be done to help the Adoptive parents as far getting them out?

    Comment by San | 8 April 2009

  15. San, I really have no idea. I just don’t know much at all about the Egyptian justice system. I’m sorry I have no more information for you.

    Does anyone else want to make a guess?

    Comment by Ms. Four | 8 April 2009

  16. Thanx, for your input; anybody with a vague idea?

    Comment by San | 9 April 2009

  17. There are many reasons there are problems with adoption here in Egypt, which is not called adoption due to Isamic belief. These orphans are called foster kids for lack of arabic translation. These children must keep the names they are given, which are made up names, by the government, and put on the birth certificate. The child may never take the last name of the foster family taking them, it is forbidden in Islam. Most of these kids are found in the street due to the fact the mother had illegal sex (sex without marriage here is illegal). If the mother is found to have been pregnant without marriage she may be killed (honor killing), or jailed etc….not much for inbetween. So there is no case of a mother or father coming back for their children.

    Second, this in an Islamic country and unless you get the child from Christian orphanage, your child must be raised mulsim. People adopting outside Egypt from the West, if they are not Muslim you can forget it. Also your whole family must be muslim. You cannot leave the country with an orphan child, not even Egyptians are allowed to do this according to the law. It is considered a sin in Islam to take an orphan child for money, however, I know it happens here. The couple didnt know what was going on well enough, or they never would have taken the child to the American embassay, by doing that it forced the Egyptian goverment to act on something it probably never would have.

    I have first hand knowledge of this, but I wont say how. But this is a very painful situation and may Allah look over these children. This is not Prophet Mohammads Idea of how or who should take care of an orphan, as he was also an orphan. But politics, religion, and law often dont mix well.

    The government here doesnt want the international public to know they have a problem with orphans or street kids, but they are trying to step up the education a little, slowly. And they really are afraid of child trafficking becoming a problem since this is such a poor country and unethical people will do anything for money.

    Comment by Fatma | 13 April 2009

  18. San my vague idea is that if this couple or anyone else invoved were found taking or giving money, they will be punished due to the shamfulness involved under Islam, as it is forbidden to do such actions with orphans according to the Quran and the judges will be forced into making an example under pressure of the Imams. But the exchange of money must be proven. If one of the couple is Egyptian and one is not, the decision to allow fostering is allowable, but rare; however I believe the man involved must be the one fostering and Egyptian. The orphanages are seperated between christian and muslim and I have heard they have different rules for each religion.

    Comment by Fatma | 13 April 2009

  19. Thanks, Fatma for takinf your quality time in this subject; I believe Iris & Louis and the rets of the couple got the kids through the Church and they are all Christians, so I don’t know how this is going to play out. They believed in the Church to help them get the kids through the Orphanage, but I don’t know some how they got scammed by Egptian Citizens who knew their desperation for being parents. In Christianity, adoption is not considered illegal; I just don’t know how the Legal system in Egypt is going to play out in this case. They got their second appearance a month from today..do you know how long this whole case is going to take? It’s all very confusing for us who are their friends and not knowing what’s going to happen to them??
    Thank you again.

    Comment by San | 16 April 2009

  20. San;

    Well one thing that Egypt will teach you is patience and that Egyptian time is not at all like Western time. Nothing happens fast here, and it’s always confusing and most the time you dont know what will happen. The law here is not what it says it is,a lot of the time. It’s who you know and who you can pay. However, being that there are foreigners involved, there is no telling what example they want to make of them. It doesnt help that they are not muslim, I hate to say that, but thats just the fact. And it is not good that other people got involved (Egyptian citizens).

    I’m sorry to say, but they didnt know the country well enough to try to adopt here, but I understand the desperation of wanting a child; double edged sword!

    But most likely you can expect a lot of confusion, misinformation, not knowing anything for periods of time, not getting anything done fast. And the best thing they can do is have all the faith they can in God; because thats all they have right now. Also, the more people that get involved, the worse it gets confusion wise, but thats common here.

    Comment by Fatma | 16 April 2009

  21. Thanks Fatma for your contribution and worthy information on this case; it’s all making sense and we know there are no guarantees, anything is possible; I also thank Ms. Four for your contribution to this website for us to get information..thanks again; we can only pray for them and hope for the best to happen to them, they have good lawyers.

    Comment by San | 19 April 2009

  22. I just read about this situation today in the newspaper, May 17…I’m wondering why it’s in the Sunday paper today, if it all started happening in March?!?!

    I have to say that I had no idea the deep cultural bias against adoption in Muslim culture, and it is sad that in the end, it is the children who grow up parentless, with really no hope of ever finding a true family.

    Comment by Michelle | 17 May 2009

  23. Michelle, you read it on May 17th because that’s the second hearing of the case. First appearance was in March 14th. These people have been sentenced since Dec 2nd and never saw the judge for the first time in civil court, until end of December! which is against the Egyptian Law as far as detaining any criminal. One can be jailed for 4 days ONLY, and have to see the Judge after that or else, let him go; but in this case it never happened that way at all…I hope you can keep up with the case in the next court date July 20th. Whoever attended the Court, which was from May 16th to 19th, must have seen SAMEH AHMED, cross examining the so called witnesses who could hardly answer any questions asked, and when asked, they ended up tying themselves to the case. There was NO CASE, to start with against the accused; if any, it is against the Government Officials themselves..We hope and pray they can finish this case and everyone can go home..They made a big show from adopting children to “Buying Babies”, who buys kids for $4000/=..

    Comment by San | 21 May 2009

  24. Michelle, I’m not sure I’d call this a “deep cultural bias against adoption in Muslim culture” but a different way of thinking about family than in the west.

    Many Muslim families are extraordinarily generous to children not born to them. They sponsor kids, and take them into their homes. In the west we might call this adoption, and the best word for it might be long-term fostering.

    Our approach to adoption in the west is pretty weird–we pretend away the birth parents. I have a birth certificate for my son which lists Mr. Four and me as the parents, and him having been born in Ethiopia. Now that is weird.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 22 May 2009

  25. Hello All. I just wanted to address a few comments which were made that are a misunderstanding/misinterpretation of what is taught in Islam.

    One of these comments is the “deep cultural bias against adoption in Islaam”. Islaam enjoins extremely kind treatment towards the orphans and abandoned children. In the Qur-an we are told to not approach the orphans wealth except to improve it and that we should only use their wealth if we are unable to care for them from our own wealth. What is NOT allowed in Islaam is changing the child’s family name. In the Qur-an we are told to “name them by their fathers names”. This is in order to preserve lineage, so there will be no confusion as to who is related to who. This way children will always know there roots (which I know is a problem for many adoptees)and they will know their siblings (which protects from incestuous marriages). There is NO BIAS against taking a child into your home and loving, raising, protecting and spending on them as you would your own. Actually this action is PRAISED and encouraged in Islaam. Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “Whoever raises the orphan will be like this with me in Paradise” This is a HUGE incentive, if I may say so myself (smile).

    The other comment I wanted to address was Mary’s comment. I sense a deep dislike for Muhammad (peace be upon him), which I do not feel will be corrected with this post, but I would still like to respond for those who are interested. What you posted about Zaid the son of Harith (who was known as Zaid the son of Muhammad before the injunction to “name them buy their fathers’ names) divorcing Zaynab (May God be pleased with them both)and her subsequent marriage to Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a misrepresentation of the actual history. The interpretation of the story is largely based on if you see Muhammad (peace be upon him) acting on his own accord. You must understand that Muhammad was sent to perfect good character. This meant going against some social norms like worshipping idols and killing the infant daughters (out of shame for having had a female child). One of these social norms was giving the adopted child the same exact role as the birth child (meaning receiving the same inheritance, the child’s spouse being forbidden in marriage to the parent, and baring the father’s name amongst other things). So what happened with the story of Zaid, Zaynab (may God be pleased with them both) and Muhammad (peace be upon him)?

    Muhammad (peace be upon him) was told by God that he would marry Zaynab. This was something new to him, but he knew that if God ordained it it would come to pass. Zayd and Zaynab were having difficulty in their marriage. This prompted Zaid to go to Muhammad (peace be upon him) for advice. Keep in mind that Zayd did not know of the command that Muhammad had received to marry Zaynab. Muhammad (peace be upon him) told Zaid “Keep your wife and have God consciousness in your dealings”. Zayd stayed married to her but later divorced her of his own free will. This prompted the following verse of the Qur-an to be revealed…

    “And (remember) when you said to him (Zaid bin Harithah radhiallahu’anhu ) on whom Allah has bestowed Grace (by guiding him to Islam) and you (O Muhammad SAW too) have done favour “Keep your wife to yourself, and fear Allah.” But you did hide in yourself (i.e. what Allah has already made known to you that He will give her to you in marriage) that which Allah will make manifest, you did fear the people whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zaid had accomplished his desire from her (i.e. divorced her), We gave her to you in marriage, so that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the believers in respect of (the marriage of) the wives of their adopted sons when the latter have no desire to keep them (i.e. they have divorced them). And Allah’s Command must be fulfilled.”

    So as we see, yes the exact reason for God commanding Muhammad to marry Zaynab was so that future generations can know what is permitted and what is forbidden according to God’s law, and it was NOT Muhammad (peace be upon him) “lusting” or “setting his eyes on” her.

    One more thing I wanted to address was this attitude that I have seen in many people. When they see a muslim (someone who has accepted Islam) do something distasteful or what is veiwed as being distasteful, they immediately start the “Oh the wretched Islam and OH that wretched Man!” type speech. I just want to point out that muslims are people and people make mistakes. Just like if a Christian or Jew does something it does not always represent the teachings of their religion.

    I apologize for the length of this post. If I’ve made any mistake I ask God’s forgiveness and I pray that the readers are protected from the effects of those mistakes.

    Comment by Inshirah | 22 May 2009

  26. Inshirah, thanks so much for all the information. Your explanation was very helpful.

    In regards to people thinking one Muslim represents all of Islam–that definitely happens, and I think it’s all-too-common when people don’t know many people from a particular group. I’ve seen this type of stereotyping with Christians, Africans, blacks in the US, etc.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 22 May 2009

  27. Yes Ms. Four, you are absolutely correct. This type of sweeping generalization is very common. The list of groups that have been stereotyped is most likely never-ending. It may be human nature (to catagorize)and we have to fight against this inclination in ourselves when the result may cause harm. Thanks for replying.

    Comment by Inshirah | 22 May 2009

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