Iryna Tarakan secured the safe return of her son Michael (pictured together) from Lebanon more than three years after her estranged husband fled from Australia
A Sydney mother has ‘pulled off the impossible’ and snatched her two young sons back from her estranged husband after he fled with the siblings to Lebanon more than three years ago.
‘I’ve been through hell – I’m so glad it’s over,’ Iryna Tarakan told The Australian on Monday, after grabbing her eldest son in Dubai and securing the safe return of his younger brother from Beirut last month.
Ms Tarakan travelled across the globe in a desperate bid to get her sons back, in a case strikingly similar to Sally Faulkner’s infamous attempt to have her children returned from the Middle East with the help of 60 Minutes.
In December 2014, Ms Tarakan’s former husband Tony Sukkar boarded a plane to Lebanon with brothers Ghattas and Michael, then five and two.
Mr Sukkar left the couple’s daughter Najla, then seven, in Australia – and refused to return home.
‘At first I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do and then you wake up in the morning and you’re kids are not there,’ the distraught mother-of-three told Seven News at the time.
Ms Tarakan (pictured in Lebanon) searched the streets of Beirut for her five-year-old son, Michael
‘Three years and four months without my little man. We are back home,’ Ms Tarakan captioned this photo of Michael upon their return to Australia
In October the following year, Ms Tarakan convinced Mr Sukkar to meet her and their daughter in Dubai, where she planned to grab Ghattas and Michael and return to Australia.
She was shattered to learn the father – who has family in Beirut – had left Michael in Lebanon.
But when Mr Sukkar walked out of their hotel room to collect takeaway food, Ms Tarakan pounced, snatching Ghattas and Najla before boarding the first available flight to Singapore.
‘My kids were sitting on the couch in their pyjamas. I said ”listen kids, come on, get up, we have to go”,’ she told the paper.
Ms Tarakan’s children, Michael, five, Ghattas, eight, and
‘I’ve been through hell – I’m so glad it’s over,’ Ms Tarakan said on Monday, after grabbing her eldest son in Dubai and securing the safe return of his younger brother from Beirut last month
Ms Tarakan is pictured with her son Ghattas, who she snatched from Dubai in 2015, and her daughter Najla
Ms Tarakan was questioned by airport officials before she was waved through customs. She then locked herself and her children in a toilet cubicle until the plane was ready to depart.
When Mr Sukkar later returned to Australia without Michael, Ms Tarakan travelled to Beirut, obtained a court order for the child’s return and searched the streets of the Christian neighbourhood where Mr Sukkar had lived.
As she searched, local police detained one of Mr Sukkar’s relatives for keeping Michael in hiding. The family later agreed to return him to his mother.
After more than three years apart, Ms Tarakan said she fell on her knees and cried as she hugged her now five-year-old son, who was in a state of shock and didn’t hug her back.
In October the following year, Ms Tarakan (pictured) convinced Mr Sukkar to meet her and their daughter in Dubai, where she planned to grab her sons and return to Australia
Ms Tarakan travelled to Beirut and searched for Michael in the streets of the Christian neighbourhood where he had lived with his father
Ms Tarakan thanked her supporters as she returned to Australia with her son, who she hadn’t seen for more than three years
‘Three years and four months without my little man. We are back home,’ Ms Tarakan wrote on Facebook as she returned to Australia with Michael on March 15. ‘Thank you everyone who supported me through this nightmare.’
The child recovery expert who advised Ms Tarakan on how to have her children safely returned to Australia said it was ‘almost impossible’ to retrieve children from Lebanon.
‘It’s very rare, in my experience… She has pulled off almost the impossible,’ Col Chapman, the same expert used by Ms Faulkner, told The Australian.
Mr Sukkar told the paper there was ‘another side’ to the story and claimed Ms Tarakan was ‘not genuine’, though he refused to comment further.
‘At first I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do and then you wake up in the morning and you’re kids are not there,’ a tearful Ms Tarakan said when her children were first taken
Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner continues to fight for the return of her children, Lahela and Noah
Meanwhile, Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner continues to fight for the return of her children, Lahela and Noah, after they were snatched by her estranged husband Ali Elamine and taken to Beirut in 2016.
Ms Faulkner and Channel Nine hired agents who attempted to take her children back from their father. The attempt, which was to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, landed Ms Faulkner, along with Tara Brown and the 60 Minutes crew, behind bars.
Mr Elamine, who was paid US$500,000 to drop the charges, said he and his two children were just getting on with their lives.
‘We don’t really care, we’re not interested, and at the end of the day I will do what I like regardless of what she says,’ he told News Corp late last year.
Ms Faulkner’s children were snatched by her estranged husband Ali Elamine and taken to Beirut in 2016
The attempt, which was to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, landed Ms Faulkner, along with Tara Brown and the 60 Minutes crew, behind bars