June 27, 2003 - Posted at: 12:05 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO, Ark. -- U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln is using her office to help a Jonesboro woman whose child was taken to Saudi Arabia by her non-custodial father.
It happened six years ago in Jonesboro. German-born Margaret McClain separated from her Saudi Arabian husband, Abdulbasset al-Omary in 1993. McClain was given full legal custody of their daughter, Heidi, after getting a divorce. In fact, al-Omary didn't fight the custody issue at all.
"He signed the papers," McClain said. "There was no problem, I thought."
Al-Omary could take his daughter every other weekend. And for six weeks during the summer in 1997; the day before Heidi was to start kindergarten, McClain heard one of the worst voice messages of her life.
"Then later he actually called back in person and wanted to talk to me," McCalin said of her ex-husband. "And said that he really was in Saudi Arabia. He did let me talk to Heidi for about 10 seconds."
When McClain got that phone call in 1997, it was another five years before she heard her daughters voice.
"It was devastating, but didn't surprise me," she said.
With the help of the State Department and Sen. Lincoln, McClain was finally able to travel to Saudi Arabia to see her daughter for the first time since her kidnapping in July of 2002. She also had the opportunity to see Heidi again early last month. Now, Lincoln is working to help make sure American citizens in situations similar to Heidi's will return home to their parents in this country.
"I am grateful to have included an amended version of legislation that I introduced last year in the State Department reauthorization bill to strengthen the ability of our government to resolve abduction cases," Lincoln said. "This provision expands the category of persons the Secretary of State may designate as ineligible to receive visas to enter the United States."
Many American-born children living in Saudi Arabia, especially females, never make it out of the country, according to Lincoln. Heidi al-Omary says she wants to come home, and Margaret McClain will continue working until she does.
"If they want good 'P.R.,' the best thing they could do is send all of these American kids home," McClain said. "And I would say good things about them."