Apr 24, 2018

Kenyan Father Agonises After Losing Daughter To ISIS In Syria

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Yusuf Abdi Noor is painfully coming to terms with the death of his eldest daughter who was killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS in 2016.

All the 50-year-old is left with is a call log that reminds him of the final moments he had with his daughter Shamisa Noor in December 2016. The retired Imam, a businessman, had a lot dreams for his six children and says did everything to get them a better education.

He sought a scholarship for Shamisa from the Africa International University, Khartoum to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Medicine. At least 20 Kenyan students joined the institution, which is very popular with Kenyan Muslim students, in 2017. According to Yusuf, Shamisa, an alumnus of Moi Girls’ Isinya, showed a keen interest in education.

He speaks of her as a self-driven and determined person who was out to achieve greatness. Shamisa, then aged 25, was lucky to receive the scholarship and immediately embarked on her studies in Sudan.She lived a normal student life and routinely visited their Kitengela home during school holidays.

During her last holiday visit in 2016, the father recounts noticing extreme changes in her behaviour and socialisation. The former Imam says his daughter came off as “overly religious and technophobic”.

“She discouraged us watching television and also disconnected internet connection in the house citing that internet was the source of immorality in the society.” Yusuf says the family members did not reach much into the matter and assumed it was just but a phase.

Her parents did not see it as a concern considering that her grades were impressive and that she was in her final year. While sitting her final exams, Shamisa made a routine call requesting for USD615 (about Sh61,434) to cater for her shopping and air ticket back home.

After three days of the request, the father sent the money through Dahabshil, as was the routine, and anxiously waited for his daughter’s return to Kenya by the end of October 2016. But by mid-November, Shamisa had not come back home claiming that she was still at school waiting for her certificate and would return home upon receiving it.

Yusuf says he advised the daughter to come home and inform someone to alert her once the certificates were ready. The suggestion did not go down well with Shamisa leading to a disagreement with her between father as she remained adamant that she would stay in school.

Meanwhile, Shamisa contacted her mother and asked for more money but pleaded with her not to inform her father about it. When the father tried calling her back a few days later, her phone was switched off and has since remained silent.

At the end of November 2016, Yusuf received a call from a man calling himself Osman claiming to be a student at the same university with Shamisa – Africa International University. “He said that he was calling to inform me that my daughter wasn’t at the school but gave me contacts of two female students based in Nairobi who would know about her whereabouts,” Yusuf said.

“I found this to be awkward, but it was the only communication I was receiving in regards to my daughter and so I opted to listen,” he said. Yusuf says he immediately set up a meeting with the two ladies hoping that they would have an elaborate lead to his daughter’s whereabouts.

Unfortunately, the two nervous-looking ladies could not offer any solace to the father claiming they last saw Shamisa at Khartoum Airport on October 31. This was when she had escorted the two to the airport.

“Their confirmation of having received an interim certification awaiting graduation in 2017, made us ask so many questions…” “Why would she stay behind as the other girls came home and where had she been all this time she claimed to be in school waiting for her certificate?” Yusuf wondered.

Hoping to trace his daughter, the man says he contacted authorities both in Kenya and Sudan. He also contacted telecommunication companies in order to try and obtain Call Detail Records (CDR) on his daughter’s phone.

The Kenyan police could not offer much assistance as the university was not in their jurisdiction. Yusuf then arranged a trip to Sudan to look for his daughter by himself. He began at the university where they helped in facilitating the search for Shamisa. “I was given a vehicle, driver and a translator by the university. I drove all over Khartoum with my daughter’s picture in hand,” he adds.

“I even went along the dangerous smuggler’s route to Libya and reached the Sudan –Libya border. I tried showing them my daughter’s photo but the search was unsuccessful.” Back at the hostel where Shamisa stayed, her Kenyan passport and a few clothes were the only evidence of her existence.

Yusuf came back home and informed the other family members of what had transpired as they all now just waited in prayer for hamisa to show up. By mid-December 2016, Shamisa’s mother received a call from an unknown number that reflected ‘Syria’ on TrueCaller.

Out of fear, the mother cancelled the call and waited for her husband who then called back later. The long-awaited voice he had longed to hear was on the other end of the line: it was his daughter. “I was overwhelmed with emotions at the sound of her voice, she was calling out hooyohooyo, she thought it was her mother calling back,” Yusuf said. Hooyo is Somali for mum.

“Before I could even ask anything, she proceeded to say that she was okay but she wasn’t coming back home. I asked her why and she confidently said that she had gone for her Jihad.”

“At this point, the only emotion I had towards my daughter was anger,” Yusuf said, adding, “I had put her on speaker phone and all her siblings heard her say she was in Syria. At this point, I think I zoned out as I can’t remember what else she said. My wife later told me that she went on and on about Muslims oppression and how she had gone to fight for all of us and that we should be proud of her,” Yusuf said.

After the first contact, Shamisa maintained communication with her family but only her mother received her calls. Her father, who is now diabetic and is battling high blood pressure, cannot bring himself to talk to her.

According to the mother, Shamisa did not sound remorseful despite the evident devastation she had brought on her family. “This went to the point of telling me that in case anything happened to here, the people she was with would call Abdi to inform him,” the mother says.

Abdi is the third born in the family and was apparently documented by ISIS as his sister’s next of kin. Shamisa worked with the terrorist group as a nurse. In the numerous calls that followed, she would give her mother updates on her duties and responsibilities.

Yusuf had forbidden all the other family members from speaking to her. During one of the calls, she told her mother that she longed for the day that all her five siblings would join her in the front lines.

“I remember asking her why she wanted to kill me by taking all my children away from me and all she kept saying was InshaAllahHooyo,” Shamisa’s mother said. Their daughter would cut communication even for months and then call back saying she had to treat many injured fighters.

“At times, I was really worried about her. I could feel it in her voice when she sounded tired or not herself,” the mother adds. In February, after a month of not hearing from her, Abdi received a telegram message that Shamisa was now a martyr.

This was after she was killed during a US airstrike that hit their compound. Upon receiving the news, Yusuf organised Salat-al-Ghaib, being special funeral prayers for his daughter.

All this while, he says he has remained hopeful that the same fate will never befall any of his other children. Yusuf says he now lives in constant regret of what he would have done different and even blames himself for securing the scholarship for his daughter.

“If she never left, maybe none of these would have happened,” he says as he breaks down during the interview. Throughout 2017, Yusuf kept police informed of the daughter’s calls and whatever information she gave.

Upon further investigations and questions by the police through the mother, it was established that Shamisa had acquired a Sudanese passport that made any travel to the Middle East very easy. She also revealed that there were six other Kenyans in the camp where she was, adding that Zahra and Faiza (the two girls the father had met) were also supposed to join her.

She revealed that their Sudanese passports had not been ready by the time they had cleared school and so the two had to come and wait for further instructions from Kenya. Zahra and Faiza, who are now interns at the Kenyatta National Hospital, are under close watch by Kenyan authorities.

Shamisa identified one of the staff at her former university in Khartoum as the ISIS recruiter. The number of Kenya women and youth joining terror groups like the al Shabaab and ISIS has in the recent past been on the rise.

On August 24 last year, 29-year old Firthoza Ali Ahmed, Aisha Mafudh Ashur, 24, and Tawfiqa Dahir Adan, 24, were arrested by Egyptian authorities in Cairo and presented to the Kenyan Embassy after they were found loitering in Cairo.

The three had managed to escape from Libya where they had been held captive by an ISIS recruiter after refusing to proceed with plans to join ISIS in Syria as they had initially agreed to. They were residents of Nairobi’s South C estate.

Earlier in March the same year, two Kenyan trainee doctors Farah Dagane Hassan, 26, and Hiish Ahmed Ali, 25 were killed in a sting operation in Libya. The two were interns at a Kitale hospital before they fled Kenya to join ISIS.

Source: The Star

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