The Fayetteville, Pa., family’s nightmare began when Niko, his mother, Kalliopi “Kalli” Atteya, and aunt, Maria Panagos, boarded a plane for Egypt to see Niko’s non-custodial father.
On Aug. 1, the car carrying the boy’s father, Mohamed Atteya, and the rest of the group pulled over for what Atteya claimed was car trouble, Pennsylvania state police said.
Niko remained in the car while the others exited, police said. The father got back into the car, followed by Niko’s mother.
When Niko got back into the car, Atteya shoved her out of the car and ordered the driver to go, police said.
Niko’s mother and aunt were left along the road, and Niko hasn’t been seen since.
“Nothing has been going on and that’s what is so frustrating,” said Niko’s aunt, Olga Panagos of Chambersburg. “It’s been three weeks since Niko was taken, and it seems like we’re no farther ahead than when we started. In the beginning, we had some kind of hope, but now we’re at the point where everyone just pushes you on to the next person.”
While she said government officials in both the United States and Egypt are trying to help, she said everyone says they’re working on it.
Since Niko has asthma, Panagos worries about him day and night.
“He could be dead for all we know. He was taken by force. This child was born in the United States, and he is a prisoner in another country,” Panagos said.
Egypt is not a signer of the Hague Convention, but Panagos doesn’t understand why the United States can’t do something to bring Niko home.
“Currently, there are no international or bilateral treaties in force between Egypt and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction cannot be invoked if a child is taken from the United States to Egypt, or vice versa, by one parent against the wishes of the other parent or in violation of a U.S. custody order,” according to the U.S. Department of State website.
Family friend Dustin John stopped by Panagos’ business Broadway Deli in Chambersburg to see how he could help reunite Niko with his family.
“I feel sad, angry, helpless and disgusted,” said the 31-year-old Chambersburg man.
He is hopeful that Niko will come home soon, but said there is so much red tape to go through.
“It just seems there has to be some way that our government could sanction them a little more or stop giving them so much aid until they’re willing to acknowledge some of the other international agreements involving child custody,” John said.
Not only is the family’s fight to bring Niko home exhausting emotionally, it’s also beginning to drain their finances.
Niko’s mother and aunt plan to stay in Egypt until they are reunited with Niko, Olga Panagos said.
The sisters are staying in a $23-a-day hostel in Egypt and spending between $8 and $12 a day on food, according to Panagos.