FEARING that a relative was recently executed in Iraq, the family of Rio Claro Imam Nazim Mohammed is appealing to Government to help bring three females and their children back home to TT.
Mohammed, 77, a member of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen who participated in the 1990 coup, told the Newsday in an interview that since the 20-year jail sentence handed down in April on his daughter Aneesa, 53, news reached him recently that her husband, Daud, was executed by the Iraqi government for illegally entering the country on suspicion of joining the terrorist group ISIS.
Having regard to what Mohammed described as Daud’s disappearance in Iraq since Aneesa’s trial, Mohammed, now 77, during an interview at his mosque on Wednesday, made a stirring appeal to the Government to negotiate with Iraqi authorities to have his daughter Aneesa, 53, (Daud’s wife), and rest of the family members, return home.
Mohammed’s grandson-in-law, Umar Kumar, 29, who is married to Aneesa’s daughter, Sabirah Mohammed Kumar, 24, is also serving 20 years in jail. Together with Sabirah and two other daughters of Aneesa– Aidah and Azizah–the families are holed up in Iraqi detention centres with their respective children.
Mohammed expressed fears that Kumar would be executed by Iraqi authorities and only his daughter and his granddaughters with their children, would be left with no hope of returning to TT.
Sunday Newsday was reliably informed that Aidah’s husband, Shuby Hasib, was killed in 2016 in Syria.
Sabirah’s children are Raeesah Hibah Kumar, six, and two-year-old Qasim Kumar. Azizah’s children are Ridwan Fadil Williams, nine, Ishaq Ansar Williams, eight and two-year-old Bilquees.
Mohammed’s only communication is via a weekly telephone call with Sabirah, a medical doctor who graduated in TT three years ago before the families left for Iraq in 2016. Red Cross International, through their chapter in TT, also visits Mohammed at his mosque with letters from Sabirah. Sabirah, Mohammed told Sunday Newsday, expressed optimism in her correspondences and in a telephone conversation on Monday, that the Iraqi authorities are willing to send them back home. It was 5 am when the phone call, monitored by Iraqi prison authorities, came from Sabirah, Mohammed said.
“She does not know about the others. They are far away. She believes the men have been killed. She says that ISIS fighters from all parts of the world have been repatriated back to their country. That if our authorities here can provide the Iraqi people with documentation through an official channel, the women and children can come back home.”
Sabirah, he said, told him that the government there had been sending so-called ISIS fighters, numbering in their thousands, back to their countries –Russia, Canada, Sweden, UK and the US.
Just why did his daughter and granddaughters pack up and travel to Turkey with their young children, then cross the border to Iraq at the height of the ISIS insurgency? Mohammed maintained they were totally unaware then about the extent of ISIS’ involvement in Syria and Iraq. “Sabirah said that they went along with their husbands for a better life. She and the other women know nothing about ISIS or jihad. They are innocent women,” Mohammed said.
The Telegraph newspaper in London reported on Aneesa’s eight-minute trial in which she was asked why she entered Iraq illegal and if she subscribed to the ideology of ISIS. The families were rounded up by government forces in the city of Monsul earlier this year which was a former ISIS-controlled territory. They were then taken to Baghdad.
Asked if he had been officially informed about Daud’s death, Mohammed said, “We believe, if that is the will of Allah, based on what was said, he was killed. They were not tried in court like the others. What is left is my daughter, granddaughters and these young children. We believe that there is nothing for anyone to fear from them and we here are appealing for them to return home.”
He said his mosque is not a recruiting ground for ISIS fighters, and spoke of the extensive religious and secular studies taught there to Muslims and non-Muslims.
He said police visit his mosque once a month and he is aware of likely surveillance by the CIA and FBI, but the imam maintained his mosque is “an open book where every poor person from the village is fed a meal on Sundays and where nothing untoward takes place except prayer and charity.”
Mohammed wrote letters dated July 11 to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and to former national security minister Edmund Dillon. He appealed for their intervention in which he requested that through the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, identity documents attesting to their TT citizenship, be sent to Iraqi authorities.
His letters were not acknowledged with a reply or e-mail. He had sent a letter, dated May 20, to TT’s Consulate in Lebanon and received an e-mail on June 5 saying that “this matter is out of our purview.”
Newsday sent questions to Al-Rawi and National Security Minister Staurt Young about Mohammed’s request.