Another ISIS baby momma, and not the ISIS recruiting jihadi wife that CAIR is defending.
This one won’t be coming back, however two, possibly three, of her children – the third from an ISIS jihadi – might be.
How many other Muslims have left the U.S. to join ISIS? How many have returned?
In late March 2015, Bashiurul Shikder made an urgent call home to ask about his wife and children. The 37-year-old American had just completed a pilgrimage to Mecca and his repeated messages to his wife in Florida had gone unanswered for over a week. Come home, his family told him. They’re in hospital. A short while later came the truth: “They finally told me, ‘they’re gone’,” said Shikder. “She’d taken them to Isis.”
In the anguished following days and the four long years since, Shikder’s search for his children, Yusuf, then seven, and Zahra, then three, has been a bitter journey, which he has kept to himself until now. As the ground held by Islamic State shrank, Shikder desperately followed his family’s retreat to the last enclave of the final town held by the group – a battered pocket of an eastern Syrian town named Baghuz.
There, amid the rubble of an intensive air campaign to oust the remnants of Isis and reclaim the last patch of the so-called caliphate after a withering five-year war, Yusuf and Zahra are believed to be alive, along with just a few hundred fighters and family members. The two American children are now without a mother – she was killed in Baghuz three weeks ago – and, according to two Isis-affiliated women who fled Baghuz in the past week, they have been taken in by British jihadists, who do not plan on leaving.
“I had my last conversation with my wife on 22 December,” he said. “The children were with her. Then, at the end of January, her sister [Ayesha] appeared online and said my wife had been killed and the children severely injured. Their faces were no longer recognisable. I cannot describe the feeling.”
Since then the fighting has intensified and there has been nothing from the battle zone, which has been attacked daily by jets, mortars and fighters in an attempt to dislodge the extremists. On SaturdayYesterday, in the al-Hawl camp, where the Baghuz exiles have been sent, a Canadian woman who fled three days ago said she knew the four Americans. She referred to Rashida as Umm Yusuf, and confirmed that she had indeed been killed in late January. “It was a mortar, or an airstrike, or something” she said. “She was killed and the children were injured.”
The Canadian woman, who refused to be named, said the children were no longer with their aunt, who had travelled to Syria with them and joined their mother on the flight across the country – from Raqqa to Mayadin, Bukamal and finally Baghuz. “They are in the care of British people who don’t want to leave.”
British jihadists are known to be among the holdouts. Until now, US children were not. Shikder had been determined to keep the plight of his family away from a global spotlight that has shone an unforgiving light on families who have been caught up in the terrorist juggernaut. He has now agreed to speak to the Observer after four years of fruitless dealings with the US government have led nowhere.
His story, and those of his deeply endangered children, mirrors the trajectory of Isis: the stark, early days when the group appeared to have no boundaries, and the merciless years that followed.
It started with a phone call. “One person called me from them and said, ‘Are you the father of Yusuf and Zahra? We are giving you a one-month journey to join them in Dawlat Islamia [the caliphate]. If you don’t, you will lose your wife and children.’
“I got emotional and started to cry. He said; ‘Why are you crying? I left my children too.’
“I gave him positive signals and they allowed me to speak to my wife. Five to seven days later they called again. She said she apologised and that Yusuf missed me. Yusuf loved airplanes and at the airport he did not want to board without me. She told him I was at the other end.”
Shikder is originally from Bangladesh and became a US citizen nine years ago. His wife Rashida, 31, was also born in Bangladesh and had been in the United States for a lot longer, with her Michigan-based family. Shikder says there were no signs that his wife was about to flee. “We would have barbecues in downtown Miami, and the week before we ate at an Arabic restaurant.”
After two years of phone calls, in which Shikder tried to buy time from the Isis members who were threatening to divorce the couple in a sharia court in Syria, Shikder lost his fight. Rashida called him in late 2017 on the day she was to remarry. “She said Yusuf had drawn pictures of our home and wanted to talk about it.”
A month later, Rashida’s new husband was killed. Nine months later, she gave birth to his child. “I never knew who the husband was,” says Shikder. “Her sister was behind all this,” he adds, more in sorrow than bitterness. “They made a plan to hide it from me.”
On Saturday Yesterday afternoon, Kurdish commanders in Baghuz said Isis was now confined to a half-square-kilometre area in Baghuz. Some women and children had been able to leave, surprising the attackers, who thought survival was close to impossible in the final pocket. Yusuf and Zahra were not thought to be among them.
Far away in Florida, where his four-year nightmare continues, Shikder says a strong faith and enduring love for his children give him reason to hope. “My children will come back to me: this is my faith. I will tell them that God did not leave you and I will never leave you, even though your mother left you. It will be the happiest moment of my life.
“Whatever she has done, because of my love for my children, I will forgive her.”
According to MyLife.com Rashida Shikder was a Democrat.