Attempted Adoption Becomes Human Trafficking Nightmare on Locked Up Abroad

Egypt is one of the most populous countries in the Middle East with more than 81 million people living throughout Cairo, Alexandria, or along the Nile River. Of those 81 million, an estimated 1.7 million are orphans. In addition, the number of children that live in the streets of Egypt is thought to be far higher. Poverty is a major contributing factor to the number of children abandoned throughout Egypt as many parents are unable to take care of their children and see abandoning them as the best option.

Donating to the well-being of orphans is encouraged in Egypt. There is even an “Orphanage Day” held in early April highlighting the issue and reminding citizens to visit and donate to orphanages. Despite this supported generosity, adopting an orphaned child is prohibited under Islamic Sharia law, which much of Egypt’s civil and criminal laws are based. Whether the child was abandoned or their parents deceased, orphans are often considered a lesser being in Egyptian society and are often abused emotionally and physically. For most orphans, the disrespect and seclusion from society will continue into adulthood unless they find some way to keep their origins a secret.

Despite the stigma and laws forbidding adoption, many couples from the United States have attempted to adopt children from Egypt. Susan Halgof and her husband Medhat Bassada, the focus of Locked up Abroad: Not without My Baby, were one of two couples arrested in 2008 for attempting to adopt a child illegally from an orphanage affiliated with the Coptic Christian Church. The church provided the couples with forged documents in order to smuggle the children out of the country.

While perspective adopters may feel their intentions are well-meaning, officials in Egypt see it differently. Susan and her husband, along with those assisting in the adoption, were accused of human trafficking. Egypt has been under fire by the United States and Israel for their lax efforts to control human trafficking, which has resulted in thousands of children being coerced or forced into labor and sexual exploitation. This increased criticism over the handling of human trafficking in has created speculation that Susan and Medhat were being used as an example by Egyptian officials to prove the country is taking steps to control human trafficking. Their case was the first of its kind in Egypt.

Adoption in Egypt has undeniably divided the society as Islamic law prevents Christians, a religion that is accepting of adoption, from being able to adopt a child. In light of Susan and Medhat’s case, an Egyptian lawyer proposed an adoption law in 2009 which would allow children from Christian orphanages to be adopted by Christian families. However, many argue that such a law would be difficult to adhere to as 90% of the Egyptian population is Muslim. Proving an orphaned child is not Muslim could make the adoption process even more complicated.


Don’t miss Locked Up Abroad: Not Without My Baby Tonight at 10P


  1. Kenneth
    July 23, 2012, 9:44 pm

    This woman really got on my nerves, her voice was so irritating, and the episode was probably the worst one I’ve seen so far. Normally I like this program, but tonight, it was like finger nails on a chalk board.

  2. Emmanuel
    Cambridge, MA
    July 24, 2012, 8:25 am

    It’s hard for me to have any sympathy for this woman. She knowingly attempted to kidnap a child from another country. When I first saw the preview of this upcoming show. I had originally thought she was defrauded via the Internet. She made me so angry during her commentary when she kept portraying herself as a victim. She was surprised when charged with “human trafficking”. That is exactly what she should be charged with. She makes all Americans look as if all we do is go to another country and buy a child. What did she think would happen when she forged documents. She proves crime does pay. Now she has a TV show about her pathetic story. Same on her.

  3. Cheryl
    July 24, 2012, 10:36 am

    I have 2 issues with this whole scenario;
    First, these people knowingly tried to circumvent the laws of another country because they thought they were entitled to a baby. As an adoptive parent this seriously irritates me.
    Second, I find it a crime against humanity that any society can treat innocent children as a “lesser being” because of circumstances beyond their controls.

  4. marybeth oberheim
    United States
    July 25, 2012, 1:45 am

    Well, my opinions are less harsh.. When you’re caught up in the heat of the moment and so desperately want a child to share your love with, you’ll do ANYTHING. I find it hard to believe that no one here has practiced bad judgement in an act of desperation?
    It’s not like the baby was kidnapped or stolen from it’s parents…he was an orphan and the orphanage (with Susan and her husband) took the ultimate risk to give him a better life.
    My heart broke for her… they really need to change the laws in Egypt.

  5. Marty
    July 27, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Well, it looks like the Egyptian philosophy towards these children is “We don’t love you and we don’t want anyone else to love you either.” Selfishness at it’s worst. They took a terrible chance, I wish they had gotten away with it scott free.This child was thrown away by someone or they are dead, this is hopefully not what it parents would have wanted for this child. Shudder!

  6. Fabiola
    phoenix az
    July 27, 2012, 9:16 pm

    I agree with Marybeth, at the end I felt horrible for the couple they wanted to be parents and at the they could not. I agree she wanted to so badly be a mom that she didn’t listen to her gut feeling. I can not judge her.

  7. alwaysblessed
    San Diego, CA
    July 29, 2012, 1:37 am

    My opinion are less harsh as well… This lady waited 40 + years to be a mom. When a precious gift from God was present to her, her heart soften and so did her judgment of what’s right and wrong. Yes, she made a mistake but she did suffer the consequences along with her husband.
    Who are we to judge! We are human and we make mistakes.
    The story ended very sad, I will pray they will be Marco’s parents again. They loved this angel and tried their best to be a good parent to an orphaned boy.

  8. Jeff R
    Venice Florida
    July 29, 2012, 9:20 am

    First off, While this couple may have broken the Law I feel they are a victim of circumstance. What complicated this adoption was “Sharia Law” which made adopting a child next to impossible. If this couple is guilty of anything its wanting to give a child a loving home with a Mom and Dad who could provise for them. If things at The American Embassy really went down as they were portrayed on the show that American who worked the window should have warned the couple of the consequences . I can understand having faith in a higher power, but most of this Sharia Law takes modern civilization back 1000 yrs in a not so good. Why would women who all over the world have fought for equal rights men, wbich is as it should be anywhere in the world. Sharia Laws want Women all wrapped up in sheets. Some women want to take that further wearing burka type clothing. You want to shake them and say….”Are you kidding me”. Here in America I am seeing a lot of wanna be Muslims. Many are just uneducated Black Women in search of an identity and feel going to the Mall here in America wrapped up in sheets gives them some kind of cool factor. In reality they are mostly followers jumping on the bandwagon. I am not a fan of the Muslim Religion as Im sure you can tell. Their text, This Koran, is worded in such a way it can be twisted to say many things, good and evil. While the Christian religion has its blemishs throughout history it is in no way as barbaric as this “Holy Text”. In some countries yoi can be killed for.burning one. And this type of muslim thinking is very popular. I had no problem with Muslims or Their religion until they started flying plane loads of innocent Men, Women and Children into buildings also full of innocent people. Or blowing up buses, trains, cars, I could go on as you could as well. Im sure there are many good muslims out their. But the wagon they tied their horse too, Islam, is a religion for Murderers and Cowards. I am not a religious person. I feel if their was a god he would mot allow all the suffering here on Earth. I tbink when your dead your dead. Susan and Medhat, come back to the US. With this Muslim Brotherhood taking over things are going to.go from bad to worse. If the god of these people, Allah, Muhammed or whoever thinks killing innocent folks is good their god is a murderous coward too.

  9. Annoyed
    NY, NY
    July 29, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Locked Up Abroad is generally one of my favorite tv shows, but this episode and story really frustrated me.

    I don’t understand why this woman perceives herself as a victim?? She knew from the moment the adoption process began that something wasn’t right and yet she continued on with it.

    I realize the whole experience was very upsetting to her, but I don’t see why she was so surprised by the outcome!

  10. anti-emanual
    October 14, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Emanual is an a-hole. The woman was so desparate to have a child that she broke the laws of Egypt. THe laws were to protect the children. But ion this case, Emanual is wrong, and the childs welfarfe was harmed by the actions of the court. Emanual, go eat a black bananna.

  11. joe
    October 14, 2012, 5:40 pm

    Emanual’s attitude really bothers me. I think the woman was well intentioned, and the system got the better of her. She clearly wanted to care for a baby. When 2.5% (1.7 of 81 million babies are orphans), this particular ruling was actually against the Egyptian people. Emanual, shame on you, for being so cruel.

  12. Naya
    October 16, 2012, 1:26 pm

    I agree with the many users who think this woman is sincere. She made a mistake of forging the documents with help from a church. She paid a heavy price for her deeds too. I was in tears watching this episode. Look at it from her perspective. She probably forged the documents in desperation for a baby whom she cared so dearly for. She fought for her baby, went to jail for her baby, was demeaned and down-graded for her baby and at the end of the day, she didn’t even get to keep the baby. She loved him so much that when she saw him healthy, happy and safe, she let him go, for his sake. At the end of it all, she felt it was worth it, for 9 short months of motherhood. Now THAT is a great woman and mother.

  13. Rup
    November 27, 2012, 5:25 pm

    The program left you in the dark on adoption laws in Egypt. Medhat would’ve known there was a potential “risk” involved with any adoption. But the problem was the later application for US citizenship. Clearly that is the controversial issue, but a question to answer is how the passport application ended up with the Egyptian police when the couple (who realised it wouldn’t be possible) decided not to pursue it…

  14. Moodie
    December 7, 2012, 12:12 pm

    I”m an Egyptian born Christian Canadian. I came to Canada when I was 6 months old. My parents had always warned me about all the discrimination that Christians face at the hands of the Muslim majority. Seems like the judicial system is no exception. The best interests of the child should be paramount. In this case, the orphan should be with his adoptive parents who love him and can provide a better life for the child.

    This is just another example where the courts have made an example out of Christians…. They took a Christian orphan, Marco, put his Christian parents in jail, and then changed the baby’s birth name and religion on his birth certificate to a Muslim one. I am sure there are many illegal Muslim adoptions going on at the mosques, but none seem to get prosecuted. Shame on Egypt for forcing Mohammad and Islam on the entire country. May the Islamic law burn in hell where it belongs.

  15. Debbie
    NYC, NY
    December 23, 2012, 10:25 pm

    Dear Moddie, my My dad is also a Christian from Egypt and my mom is American. I was born in the USA too. My dad would tell me the many stories about the horrendous discrimination that happened over there. I would also witness it a lot of the discrimination and saw with my very own eyes the living conditions of the orphanages. Believe me, it brought tears to my eyes. Egypt is actually guilty of millions of human rights violations. This case was a major example of it and there are many more you know. The system basically destroyed that little boy’s, Marco’s, life and unjustly sent people to jail just for doing a good deed. All because of their sick beliefs. But do not worry cause God see all.

  16. james
    April 6, 2013, 10:38 am

    I feel for her and am also annoyed by her too. Dr. King Jr. Said that there are two kinds of laws: just laws and unjust laws. But he also said that when you feel a law is unjust and you fulfill your moral obligation to disobey it you should be mindful of the consequences.,

  17. Banged Up Abroad … | 4gottenadoptee
    July 27, 2013, 2:20 am

    […] anyone watching. But this episode caught my attention, a couple that goes to Egypt to adopt a child. Susan Halgof and her husband Medhat Bassada. Basically they get caught after having tried to pass off false and falsified documentation to the […]

  18. chabbir mahammad ali
    Guwahati, India
    July 28, 2013, 5:08 am

    when i saw this episode, i broke into tears. It is very unfortunate and should not happen with anyone. Though i am a muslim i am against the so called sharia law. I feel it makes no sense. Today, bcoz of the terrorists or some sharia laws, many muslim people faces discrimination across the globe. I really feel sorry susan, medhat and marco. This shouldn’t happen with anyone.

  19. Marsie Met
    So Cal, USA
    November 24, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Whoa! Something is definitely “off” with this lady…this was so irritating & this lady was so full of drama in telling her story …I just could not deal with it nor feel much compassion; she admitted she didn’t know where the child really came from…just that she desperately wanted a baby. Maybe the baby WAS kidnapped from the birth mother.. She knew & admitted on film at each step of the way that something was “off” yet she continued with lying and falsifying documents! Hello! You’re in a country where women have no your an American…you don’t know any better?!?

    This is how all these “Locked Up Abroad” stories go…people do really stupid things for money or whatever in foreign countries where for some reason they believe they automatically have a “get out of jail free” card…wake up! Know the laws & politics of where you’re going, know that you & your luggage will be searched/xrayed & even torn apart, know that you will be held accountable and know your rights as an American may or may not be of any help in a foreign land! Get a life without smuggling & breaking laws or find yourself “Locked Up Abroad” dummies!


  20. manon bos
    March 17, 2014, 1:56 pm

    i really do not agree with anything of the above…..i understand this woman completly, she loved this baby as here own, and i think this is verry sad! you will do anything for your child, and i would like to know if she ever seen him again

  21. thedarkabyss100
    Baguio City, Philippines
    April 3, 2014, 5:39 am

    From behind the scenes:
    “Were you aware of Egypt’s adoption laws before you visited the cathedral in Cairo?

    No, we went there to inquire about adoption, it was all very vague.

    When you saw Marko for the first time, did you learn about how he came to be under the care of the church?

    No, we did not know anything about his circumstances. The church does this to protect the mother and the baby. It is all handled within the church.”

    The reason she kept on doing this is because she didn’t know that this would be so damn severe, stop blaming her for not knowing the law on Egypt. If she knew how severe this would’ve been, she would’ve dropped the baby and simply leave.

  22. ed
    August 24, 2016, 6:08 pm

    Usually I am neutral or feel some sympathy or empathy for the people in ‘locked up abroad’. Not in this case however. Extremely irritating and melodramatic woman. She knowvery well what she was doing was not right, she even said she felt something was off, yet she proceeded. Furthermore… this was not about helping a baby, it was a completely egotistic wish to ‘be a mother’. Marco was just the means to a goal

  23. Barbara Mancl
    March 19, 7:48 pm

    You do not go to a foreign country like Egypt and adopt a baby leaving without proper paperwork. She should never have left with the baby the first time she and her husband held it. Subsequent lying on forms is criminal and she is not a victim. If there is a victim it is the child. That is what’s
    sad. Of course I hear her heart in wanting this baby however she and her husband seem ignorant and foolish as they went down this road.