Hafesudheen was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan, months after he, along with 20 others went to join the ISIS.

Hopelessness engulfs families of Keralas 21 who joined ISIS after news of Hafesudheens death
news Radicalisation Wednesday, March 01, 2017 - 16:19

“I don’t feel anything now…it’s been more than ten months since they all left,” says 63-year-old Vincent. Both his sons, and their wives, are among those who went ‘missing’ from Kerala to join the Islamic State.

Vincent's sons Bexen (Isa) and Bestin (Eshia) - born Christian but later converted to Islam - went missing in June last year, along with their wives Nimisha and Merrin.

Ever since news came that 23-year-old Hafesudheen, one of the missing 21, was reportedly killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan three days ago, Vincent is struggling to make sense of the world.

Read: Kerala man who went in search of jannat and joined ISIS reportedly killed in Afghanistan

"What am I supposed to feel...they are my sons. But they left home of their own will and they must be aware of the path they chose for themselves,” the Palakkad based businessman tells The News Minute.

“I learnt about Hafes' death when I read it in a newspaper. I do not have an answer as to why Hafes' death has not shaken me enough. May be because my sons have been gone for way too long. I have grown used to it," he says.

But his stoicism is short lived. Soon, he is angry with the sons who abandoned him, and chose their path themselves.

"They converted to Islam of their own will, they chose their brides themselves. They left home of their own will. I do not have answers to any of these. The NIA is investigating, I have not pinned any hopes on the probe, may be they will bring my sons back. But they haven't returned yet because they have chosen to stay there," Vincent says, the anger in his voice palpable.

After a small pause, Vincent continues: "We are co-operating with the investigation and have been hearing from the investigating officers quite often."

The last time Vincent and his wife heard from Bexen and Bestin was a month ago. According to Vincent, Bestin sent a message via Telegram app to his mother, assuring her that they were doing fine. The family has by now grown used to Bestin occasionally sending a text message, and the long silence that follows each of his messages.

While four of the 21 youths who went missing from the state belonged to Palakkad district, the remaining were all residents of Kasargod.

Speaking to TNM, Abdul Rahman, father of Dr Ijaz, who went missing with his wife and 2-year-old child, said that the news of Hafes' death has had no effect on him.

"Why should I be concerned about Ijaz? He abandoned his family, his religion. The women in the family are obviously terrified at the news of one of them passing away. But didn't we all expect this at some point?" Abdul Rahman asks.

Ijaz's phone call to his mother in Padne village of Kasargod two months ago had come as a reassurance to her.

"Ijaz called on the landline and spoke to his mother for nearly 10 minutes. His wife, too, spoke. They said that they were well and that we need not worry about them. He did not dare to call me, as he knew I would not respond kindly," Abdul Rahman says.

Bexen and Nimisha

But for Bindu, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram and mother of Nimisha, the struggle to get her daughter back is still on.

"I heard about Hafes' death, but I am unmoved by it. A daughter who has all the prayers of her mother will never run into danger. I strongly believe so. Many of the other families are already losing the battle...they have started responding negatively. But I wouldn't do so. I am awaiting the day I will get my daughter, her husband and their newborn to return home," Bindu says.

A few months after the 21 people went missing, Bexen (Nimisha's husband and Vincent's son) informed his parents that Nimisha had given birth to a baby.

While Bindu maintains that she has not heard from Nimisha ever since she went missing, she says, "No weapon, no death can take away my belief that my daughter will return home."

Also read: Kerala's missing 17: How a complex web of conversion and radicalization led them out of India

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