Nov 13, 2007
Zahara's family wants her back, a headline screams this week. The cover story is from In Touch Weekly and the claim is that this may be the worst nightmare of Angelina Jolie if she loses baby Z. Could it really happen? It would be awful as Angie obviously loves her baby girl. In a lengthy exposé the magazine details first that On June 20, 2006, Angelina proudly told CNN’s Anderson Cooper about the daughter she named Zahara.
"She’s from Ethiopia. She's an AIDS orphan," Angelina said. But Zahara’s adoption papers, which an In Touch representative was shown on November 12, clearly states that Zahara has a grandmother and extended family alive in Africa— and the grandmother introduced In Touch to her daughter, who claims to be Zahara's mother.
The cover story notes that while her birth family may not be able to afford to challenge Zahara’s adoption, they do claim they were misled. They say a local official, who took Zahara to the adoption agency, told the family they would get to see the baby again and maintain contact with her. Most people hoping to adopt who are working with the U.S.- based agency Wide Horizons for Children (which Angelina used to adopt Zahara) visit the child’s village and surviving family members.
But the article claims that Angelina, 32, could not do so when she adopted Zahara more than two years ago. “There were a lot of journalists following her,” the agency’s Ethiopian head, Dr. Tsegaye Berhe, tells In Touch. “She was not able to travel as much as she would have liked or as we would have liked her to do.”
Could her birth mother get Zahara back? Mentewab Dawit Lebiso, 24, the woman that claims to be the birth mother never signed the papers giving up her daughter, which could give her a case for getting Zahara back — if she had the money to pursue it. “If some family member comes in and leaves the child at an orphanage and signs her over, and then the mother wants her back, you can make the argument that the person didn’t truly understand that their child is gone forever,” says adoption specialist Jerri Jenista.
Mentewab struggled to feed her family. “Sometimes all I had was a piece of bread all day,” she tells In Touch. Zahara’s mother Mentewab sells onions at the market. Her grandmother Almaz says they couldn’t afford to keep Zahar. “I would tell other families not to give up their children,” says Zahara’s aunt Frehiwot, 18, with another aunt, Zinash Haile Yenero. “I would tell them what happened to us.”
Dawit Lebiso, 24, tells In Touch. “Her grandmother and I both tried very hard to raise her, and I want her to come home to regain her identity.”