Currently playing in a Beiruti jail and between the Lebanese and Australian governments is a story that, to say the least, is probably going to end up as a big Hollywood production soon. We can only hope whichever studio takes it doesn’t give the leading role to Nicholas Cage, or Carlos Azar for that matter.
Almost twelve months ago, Ali Elamine, in pure Lebanese patriarchal macho fashion, tricked his ex-wife Sally Faulkner into allowing him to take their two children, Noah and Lahela, on a supposedly temporary trip to Lebanon. Clearly, the trip turned out to be anything but temporary as Ali refused to return the children to their mother who hasn’t been able to see them since.
Obviously, such a situation is abhorrent. Ali Elamine is, to put it bluntly, horrible. Not only is he the embodiment of the stereotypes that Lebanese Australians have to endure, but is also such a disgusting creature for doing what he has done. He has no excuses. He is revolting. No one with any ounce of humanity and reasoning can be on his side. He is a disgrace and another entity to the growing list of things to make us ashamed of sharing a nationality with them.
To do what he did, Ali Elamine is using demented Lebanese laws that rely on the religious background of the parents, in this case the Shia Muslim court, which gives the father the upper hand in a custody battle. Add to that the fact that he is essentially legally untouchable in Lebanon, and you have a pretty much sealed case.
As a cry for help, Sally Faulkner, the mother, has been trying to rally media behind her cause for the past six months. On the Lebanese side of the world, nobody cared. Such cases are common enough with asshole Lebanese fathers ever present for her case to register on the Lebanese let-me-see-if-I-should-care scale. In Australia, however, the producers of 60 Minutes saw in Sally Faulkner a story. And this is when they started to turn the lives of her children into a circus show.
Up until now, the custody battle between Sally and Ali was only as such, a battle between two parents. It was unfortunate that the laws in Lebanon are retarded and that Ali is a revolting existence, but that’s how things are. Perhaps with enough media pressure in Australia, Lebanese media would have picked up on the issue and sided – as they should – with the mother, leading to enough attention over here for a safe and sane resolution of the issue.
Except that didn’t happen, because what took place was the following:
The crew of 60 Minutes, which airs on Channel 9 in Australia, paid around $120,000 for an international child recovery agency, with a spotty track record and multiple botched attempts reportedly, and flew with them and the children’s mother to Lebanon in order to recover them.
The recovery attempt occurred as follows: while the children were with their grandmother at a bus stop in Beirut, the crew of that agency, masked and all, rushed out of a van, grabbed the children, pushed their paternal grandmother aside, and rode away with them, reuniting them briefly with their mother.
The whole Hollywood-esque sequence was caught on surveillance cameras, prompting Lebanese authorities to stop the van, arresting everyone inside: the crew of 60 Minutes (including Tara Brown), the mother and the crew of the recovery agency, and – obviously – bringing back the children to their father who clearly knew he had the upper hand on home territory.
Ali Elamine’s path now is clear: play up the fact that his children are Lebanese and are governed by Lebanese sectarian law, and portray their mother as unfit, attacking her reputation, which in Lebanon is akin to a death sentence.
But the equally horrifying part in this whole story isn’t only Ali Elamine’s character, but rather how Australia’s 60 Minutes crew handled the entire affair.
For starters, what kind of reputable TV show pays over $120,000 for a children kidnapping agency, which is basically what that agency does, to kidnap children?
What kind of reputable TV show does what was mentioned previously not only to reunite the kids with their mother, but to get movie-esque kickass shots to boost their show’s ratings?
What kind of reputable TV show does so in the middle of Beirut, out of all places, without being aware of the laws governing the city, the relationship between the country where that city is located and their own home country?
What kind of reputable TV show is apparently seemingly unaware of what could possibly go wrong in basically kidnapping two children who are nationals of the country they’re kidnapping them from, taking them away from their father and trying to take them back to Australia? Do they not know that Lebanese children are NOT allowed to leave the country without the written and documented consent of their father?
What kind of reputable TV show puts the priority of a dramatic story over the well-being of the children involved, whose lives will be affected in more ways than anyone will ever imagine?
By doing what they did in Beirut, the producers of Australia’s 60 Minutes did more damage to Sally Faulkner’s case to have her children, to the lives of those children and to their reliability as a supposedly top notch investigative journalism show. In a perfect world, you can’t go back from such massive unprofessionalism, except they probably will. The only entities who will be permanently damaged are Noah and Lahela, whose chances of being with their mother have become next to zero, and whose lives have been turned into a real life circus, soon to be a Hollywood movie, or maybe even a book. In custody battles, one of the parents wins, but the children always lose. Now make that loss on an international, Hollywood-esque scale.