The natural mother of Angelina Jolie’s adopted Ethiopian daughter Zahara has made a heartfelt plea to the superstar actress telling her: ‘please just let me talk to my daughter’.
Poverty stricken Mentewab Dawit Lebiso told Daily Mail Online she is desperate to be part of her 12-year-old daughter’s life – and called for Jolie to get custody of her daughter in the bitter split with Brad pitt.
She dreams of one day meeting the girl she gave up as a tiny infant – but said she would settle for the chance to simply hear her voice.
‘I just want her to know that I am alive and here and long to be able to speak with her. I do not want my daughter back but just to be in contact with her and be able to call her up and talk with her,’ said Mentewab, who ekes out a living in Ethiopia.
Desperate: Mentewab Dawit Lebiso is Zahara Jolie pitt’s biological mother, having given birth to her in Ethiopia after falling pregnant when she was a.ttacked. Mentewab has never had any other children and now desperately wants some contact with Zahara
Bid for reunion: Mentewab, pictured left above, gave birth to Zahara, pictured above right with angelina Jolie in 2007, in Ethiopia but the baby was put up for adoption as Mentewab was so sick. She is desperately disappointed she has no contact with Zahara
Poverty: The simple home in central Ethiopia where Mentewab makes a living renting out two rooms, which brings in less than £15 a month
Mother’s longing: Mentewab told MailOnline that while she had lost Zahara as a baby, she still felt grief. ‘I miss her all the time. I think about her every day and long to hear her voice or see her face’
New life: The life that Zahara Jolie pitt would have lived in Ethiopia is far removed from the luxury of Los angeles and life with Hollywood star and humanitarian campaigner angelina Jolie. Her biological mother is still living in desperate poverty
Mentewab is the first to admit that the Jolie-pitts have given her daughter everything she could wish for, adding: ‘angelina has been more of a mother to her than I have ever been. She has been with her since she was a baby, but that does not mean I do not miss her.
But she adds: ‘I miss her all the time. I think about her every day and long to hear her voice or see her face.I know when she has a birthday but I am sad because I can’t celebrate it with her. I would so much want to celebrate with her on her birthday and other special days.
Angelina has been more of a mother to her than I have ever been. She has been with her since she was a baby, but that does not mean I do not miss her
Mentewab Dawit Lebiso
‘I long to be able to have regular contact with her.’
Daily Mail Online tracked down Mentewab to a town in central Ethiopia far from the capital addis ababa and tourist attractions of the african country.
During an exclusive interview Mentewab looked close to tears as she mentioned her daughter’s name and talks of her hopes of one day being reunited with her.
Even now, 12 years after giving up her only child for adoption the pain as she talks about Zahara is clear in her face.
Lonely birthdays: Mentewab told MailOnline she knows every time Zahara’s birthday passes but cannot mark it because she wants to celebrate with her
Modest: The tiny home where Mentewab lives and rents out two rooms is her only source of income. The 31-year-old says she has not received any letters, pictures or money from angelina since the adoption 12 years ago
Rural: This muddy road where cows graze freely is most likely where Zahara Jolie pitt would have lived if she had not been adopted by star angelina. Now it is where her birth mother Mentewab ekes out an existence
Poverty: Mentewab lives off this humble road in Ethiopia. She does not have any photos of her daughter on display as she does not want others in the town to know she gave away her daughter – even if it was to one of Hollywood’s most famous female stars
Brutal r.ape: One night, when her grandmother was away on business, a stranger broke in and subjected her to a vicious a.ttack. When, a few months later, it became impossible to hide the fact that Mentewab was pregnant, her relatives disowned her
Poor: Mentewab lives in a poor Ethiopian town but occasionally follows her daughter’s progress online and receives news from her brother in america
Struggle: Mentewab initially kept her daughter, whom she had named Yemasrech, which means ‘good news’, but struggled to make enough money then ran away, leaving her with her own mother almaz Elfneh (left)
No conflict: Mentewab insists she is not asking for her daughter back and praises angelina Jolie as a good mother. She says simply: ‘I would like Zahara to know she has a mother who loves her as much as angelina’
She lowers her eyes, and speaking through an interpreter, says softly in her native, amharic tongue : ‘I would like Zahara to know she has a mother who loves her as much as angelina.
‘I know her life is with angelina is in another country and she speaks another language than me.
We all die sometime and before I die I would like her to know about me and that she has family here in Ethiopia. I would ask angelina to let me speak with her. I do not think it is too much to ask
‘She has a life that I could never give her, but I would still like to have some contact. I would like to see her face. She has grown into a beautiful woman and I am so proud of her. My heart bursts because I am so proud.
‘We all die sometime and before I die I would like her to know about me and that she has family here in Ethiopia.
‘I would ask angelina to let me speak with her. I do not think it is too much to ask.’
The 31-year-old has had no contact with Zahara since she was taken to america by Jolie when she was just six months old in 2005.
Mentewab has not received a card or letter from Jolie in past 12 years. Contact with birth mother is rare for adopted children growing up, however, they have a right to try and trace birth parents when they reach 18.
and despite her and pitt’s combined wealth estimated at over $500m Mentewab has not received any financial help to escape the dire poverty that sees her surviving on less than pds 15 a month and living in a one room home with no running water or toilet.
‘No money has ever been offered and that does not worry or disappoint me,’ said Mentewab.
Megastar Jolie was told that Zahara was orphaned when she adopted her in 2005, and had lost her parents through aids.
It is thought that she had no idea that Mentewab was alive until 2007, when she gave her first interview.
Maternal: angelina Jolie was clearly besotted with her newly adopted daughter Zahara as she planted a kiss on her head just after her arrival in the United States in 2005
‘Aids orphan’: angelina Jolie revealed she had been told Zahara’s mother had died of aids when she adopted her in 2005, and said she was also suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. In fact her mother was still alive
New family: angelina Jolie first adopted son Maddox from Cambodia, in 2002, and later daughter Zahara from Ethiopia, in 2005
Life of riches: Zahara, pictured left above with angelina Jolie and sister Shiloh, right in 2015, was born into grinding poverty in Ethiopia but adopted by Jolie after her mother fell ill after the birth. Zahara’s birth mother, who gets by on less than £15 a week, wants to be able to talk to her
Mentewab is adamant she does not want to destabilise her daughter, nor is she after money. She simply wants any form of contact she can, although she acknowledges that there is no obligation for Jolie to get in touch.
Gesturing around the bare concrete walls of her home in a back street of the dusty Ethiopian town where she lives, she says: ‘What would I do with the money. I do not want any money from angelina. She does not have to send me any money, but all I would like is to talk with Zahara.’
Zahara was the second of three children adopted by Jolie,41, and her superstar husband Brad pitt.
I do not want any money from angelina. She does not have to send me any money, but all I would like is to talk with Zahara
Hollywood’s golden couple – until their recent split and acrimonious custody battle – also have three other children of their own.
The six children currently live with Jolie in Malibu, California, after pitt faced allegations, which were later dropped, of strict treatment of the eldest boy Maddox,15, and unsubstantiated rumours of drug use.
The actress has been granted custody of the children Maddox, Shiloh, 10, pax, 12, and twins Vivienne and Knox, eight, as well as Zahara while lawyers hammer out a divorce settlement and final custody agreement.
Mentewab said she is aware of the divorce as relatives in america keep her informed of any developments by reading out stories from the media.
She had also learned from the internet about the allegations made against 53-year-old pitt and firmly comes down on the side of Jolie in the couple’s high profile custody battle.
‘I want my daughter to stay with angelina. She is a good mother and all children should stay with their mother,’ she said.
‘I am sorry that they are splitting up and I will pray for them, but I do not think it will affect Zahara that much.’
However she insisted pitt had been ‘good father’ to her daughter Zahara.
Deserted: after Mentewab left almaz took the baby to the local council to ask for help, amid fears she was becoming dangerously malnourished. almaz said in 2007: ‘I went to the Kebele (the local council) and said to them, ‘please take the baby before she dies’
Alone but informed: Mentewab has not married or had any other children. She said she is aware of the divorce as her older brother who lives in america keeps her informed of any developments by reading out stories from the media. She had also learned from the internet about the allegations made against 53 year old pitt and firmly comes down on the side of Jolie in the couple’s high profile custody battle
‘Broken’ promise: a fixer then took the baby to addis ababa, and it is claimed that he promised he would keep in touch. Mentewab told MailOnline: ‘I do not want any money from angelina. all I would like is to talk with Zahara’
‘I do not know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. It is very sad when a marriage breaks up, but I known they will be thinking about their children,’ she said.
‘I am not worried about Zahara in this as she will be looked after by them both. I know they love the children and they will not want any hurt to come to them.
I do not know who is in the right and who is in the wrong. It is very sad when a marriage breaks up, but I known they will be thinking about their children
‘I have read about what Brad pitt is supposed to be like but I do not recognise this person. This is a man who has looked after and cared for my daughter. He is a good man and I hope that they can settle whatever it is between them and move on with their lives.’
In the days after Jolie filed for divorce she considered a restraining order against pitt while child protection agencies in Los angeles launched an investigation after a complaint their eldest son Maddox had been verbally abused on a private flight by a drunk pitt.
The investigation was dropped but Jolie then insisted her soon to be ex-husband undergo drug testing four times a month.
That information came to light after pitt filed court documents in the Superior Court of California, County of Los angeles to request that all records regarding custody issues be kept under seal.
Mentewab said she does not want to take sides in the custody battle, although she believes the six children should stay with their mother.
Humble: In this modest home, built by Mentewab’s father, she now earns a living by renting out two rooms but insists she does not want angelina Jolie’s money
Birthplace: Zahara, who was originally named Yemasrech, which means ‘good news’, was conceived in the dusty Ethiopian town of Shone where Mentewab was staying with her grandmother
LIFE IN SHONE MEANS GRINDING POVERTY
Angelina Jolie has spoken of the malnutrition Zahara was suffering when she was adopted, and revealed that the five-month-old had rickets.
Had Zahara overcome those hurdles, she would have faced a life of hardship with little prospect of being independent with a career or the chance to one day own her own home.
In Shone, a dirt-poor town in south-east central Ethiopia, her home would have been a one or two room shack with no heating, no air conditioning and an outside toilet that is vulnerable to whatever livestock the family own.
The biggest single luxury would have been a small television with just a handful of channels, and most of those featuring gospel preachers.
While most girls have the opportunity to attend school from the age of five to 16, not all can spend their days in a classroom.
Such is the grinding poverty of the majority of families in Shone that they have to work to support themselves and their wider family.
While education is free in Ethiopia many children in villages and towns are unable attend as their parents cannot afford to pay for the uniforms and books and pencils.
The majority survive on less than £20 a month with money used for food, clothing and rent for a home.
The main road through the town is clogged with herds of goats and cows being driven by teenagers carrying a stick. The most popular form of transport is donkey and cart.
As Zahara lives with one of the world’s most high profile and recognizable names, Mentewab has had no trouble keeping up with her life.
Tucked away in a draw in one of the few pieces of furniture in her living room Mentewab has a file packed with newspaper cuttings and photos of her daughter and Jolie.
The photos from celebrity magazines are well worn where they have repeatedly handled.
Mentewab does not have any photos of her daughter on display as she does not want others in the town to know she gave away her daughter – even if it was to one of Hollywood’s most famous female stars.
Two cousins who live in an adjoining home are even now not aware that Zahara Jolie-pitt is her daughter.
Mentewab does not like to talk about the adoption as it brings back painful memories – not just of losing her baby but of how she came to be pregnant.
Mentewab says she was 19 years old when she gave birth to a baby girl she called Yemasrech.
In her native amharic language the name means ‘good news’.
She did not know the father as her child was conceived as a result of a brutal r.ape a.ttack.
Mentawab was staying in her grandmother’s house in Shone when an intruder broke in an a.ttacked her.
She was too scared to tell her parents but when the pregnancy began to show she was forced to admit the truth.
Initially disowned by her family, she went to live in the nearby town of Hosanna where she says she gave birth to the baby later named Zahara in January 2005.