What happens when one parent takes a child across international borders without the other parent’s permission? In 1980, the United States and international partners created a treaty that lays out the rules for what federal officials are supposed to do in such cases. Judges are instructed to send children back to their home countries – with very few exceptions. Lawmakers imagined the treaty would usually help left-behind mothers, trying to get their children back from abductor-fathers. Today, more than a quarter of a century after the U.S. implemented the treaty, the standard profiles of abductor and left-behind-parent have shifted dramatically. The majority of the taking parents – the abductors – are women. And most of those women are victims of domestic violence, fleeing their abusers with their children.

On most days, sometimes more than once a day, I get an official statement  from the press office of the Syrian National Coalition—an organization that, strictly speaking, is neither Syrian nor National, since it is…