Most people’s initial reaction was sympathy when they heard about Australian mum Sally Faulkner travelling to Lebanon to rescue her children with the help of a child recovery agency.
It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Ms Faulkner, who says she was forced to take action to retrieve her children after their father took them to Lebanon and then said they were never coming back.
This week the Brisbane mum travelled to Beirut in an attempt to bring back her children Lahela, 5, and Noah, 4. With the help of an international child recovery agency she staged a dramatic – and ultimately futile – kidnapping of the children.
A video of the raid captured the moment the children were bundled into a car by the rescue crew as they walked along a busy street in Beirut with their grandmother and a nanny.
The children’s grandmother later reported she had been injured when she was hit on the head with a pistol during the kidnapping attempt.
Sally Faulkner's children Lahela and Noah. Image via Facebook.
A 60 Minutes crew, including reporter Tara Brown, who had gone to Lebanon to report on the rescue, were arrested and Ms Faulkner fled into hiding with the children.
But it didn't go to plan. The next day, Ms Faulkner was also arrested and the children returned to their father.
There could not be a worse result for the mum, who clearly adores her children and said the last two years have been "hell on earth".
But while it is impossible not to sympathise with her pain, I couldn't help thinking about the children and what was going through their minds as they were ripped from the arms of people they knew and thrown into a car by strangers.
Sally and Noah. Image via Facebook.
The sheer terror they must have experienced is hard to imagine and will no doubt be imprinted on these children's minds for a long time to come.
I also couldn't help thinking about their father, Ali el-Amine, who called the kidnapping attempt "dangerous and reckless".
"What if someone armed passed by and saw the scene and started to fire? We are in Lebanon here. If they started to shoot, they could have hit one of the children. They could have shot my mother," he told the ABC.
Custody issue are almost always complex. International custody battles are a nightmare. It's certainly not up to any of us to say where the children should be or to decide who is "right" and wrong".
But it's concerning when there is an automatic assumption the children are being "rescued'" and returned to their rightful home. The family had previously lived together in Lebanon. No doubt their father believes their rightful home is with him.
Lahela and Noah with their father, Ali El-Amine. Image via A Current Affair.
And it is worrying that even as we progress as a society beyond stereotypical beliefs about roles of men in bringing up children, there is an automatic assumption that children really do need to be with their mum - over their dad.
While there may be further development in this case and further information that paints either mum or dad in a different light, let's hope we can move to a place where not all men are automatically seen as the villain.
Because ultimately that is not in the best interests of the child. Children need their dads just as much as they need their mums. What is important is the children are safe, and hopefully, happy.
Let's hope that's the outcome for Lahela and Noah.
Watch Sally's moving video request to Julie Bishop last year asking her to bring her children home.