Monday, February 22, 2010

A Battered mother's prayers for her missing sons (Borella, Sri Lanka)

This is such a sad, horrible story. I can't even begin to summarize it.

Prayers For My Sons…

By Ranee Mohamed

Her religion, her life and living decree that her photograph ought not to be taken — let alone be published in a newspaper. But the loss of one’s children can drive a mother to do anything, even the prohibited.

“I will do anything, just about anything to get my sons back,” said the battered, abused and beaten Fathima Faika, with only tears and a gnawing heartache left behind as legacies of a marriage made at 26 years of age.

“He was the one and only man in my life. I led a sheltered life and attended the Kegalle Convent. I had no association with men and my life revolved around my husband,” recalled Faika crying uncontrollably.

“I endured the torture, endured the beatings and endured the endless cooking, cleaning and fetching because of my sons,” said Faika. “But there came days when I could not bear the beatings anymore, yet I stayed,” she added. But it was not always that she could stay. “At most times the beatings became unbearable, I thought I would die if I stayed and I ran into the night. When my eldest son was born I was forced to leave the infant behind and run away. Yet I came back, because of my sons,” cried this anguished mother choking on the memories. . .

All these beatings were endured in the vicinity of the Borella Police Station. “One day when I went to the Borella Police I was told not to cry and cough as the saliva may settle on the complaints book. “If you are sick, go and take treatment, don’t come here,” the police once told me. Despite the fact that Faika’s mother thought that a tin of red paint had been slashed on here face, the police in Borella had been reluctant in taking down the complaints of this helpless woman.

“In your culture, men are allowed to take other women, so why fuss?” an officer in the Borella Police Station had reminded Faika. But it was not the other women that Faika was worried about, it was the impossibility of enduring physical beatings and the ultimate loss of her most cherished possessions – her sons

“I wish to pay a tribute to the Women and Children’s Bureau in Fort for the way they have stood by me. I remember how a W.P.C. there questioned my husband over my blood-covered bruises and warned him repeatedly against this physical abuse. (To which he said that my mother had beaten me and dumped me in his house.)

With an influential husband in business, friends in high places, and on the verge of stepping into politics, Fathima Faika at first glance may look like the quiet wife of a rich man. But look deeper into her heart, talk to her and one sees not just cracks in her life, but whole ruination.

Innocent, troubled and distant are the words that one would use to describe this helpless woman from Borella who has made 17 complaints to various authorities over the disappearance of her sons, Mohamedhul Khifli (10) and Ahamed Shanfer (5).

Each day my little son saw the tears in my eyes and he made the sacrifice. He sacrificed his comfort, his love for me and his happiness, he endured it all and chose to be away from me because he knew that I would be beaten if they stayed with me,” said this traumatised woman in need.

Fathima Faika needs our help, but she remains isolated. There seems to be no one who is actually able to give her what she wants – her sons.

“My husband said that he divorced me. But at times he says he is married to me, either way he does what suits the situation. I was forced to leave him when our first son was just nine days old. But I had to come back because he kept the baby. I could not bear the pain of losing him….” And of course it was the milk that welled up within her and the surging of love within her that caused this young women to come back to a home she described as a hellhole.

Had enough

But with one child and a hundred beatings, Fathima Faika had just had enough. “I was determined to divorce him. When I told him of my intentions, he said that it would look bad on him if I divorced him, so instead he would divorce me.”

“I was given custody of my child,” said Faika.

After four hearings in eight months, Fathima Faika was told that she was divorced. But as time went by her ex-husband seemed to have no intention of leaving her alone.

“Despite being divorced, he forced me to come and live with him. He said he was a changed man. And on being urged by my helpless mother and ailing father, I chose to go,” recalled Faika.

And when she went to live with him she not only got more beatings but something even more — another child.

“I really wanted to stay together because of my sons. Besides our culture did not seem to recognise a divorced woman. I endured the torture once again. There was an endless flow of friends and relatives to our home and it was a case of cooking from morning to night. If there was too much gravy in the chicken curry, I got beaten; if the curry was too dry, then I got beaten. If I was too slow I was beaten, if I did not know how to fix the charger to the new telephone, then again I got beaten – in fact, there was nothing about which I did not get beaten,” said Faika in tears.

Children — they make women endure not just mental trauma but grievous mental and physical hurt. Fathima Faika knew that if she left she would lose the children.

My children were terrorised into saying that they do not love me, that they do not need me — and they said so to friends and strangers, they said so, with tears in their eyes. I really did not want to leave, but the physical abuse was hard to endure,” said Faika.

And in that one moment of unbearable pain and agony, she did leave – she went back to her mother. “With her face so bruised and lips so swollen, I thought she was someone else,” said her mother in tears.

But there is always room for a daughter in her mother’s home. And when she was living there, the car that pulled up near the house had been a strange one. In that was her technically ex-husband. “My father is ill and my mother and I are constructing a new bathroom for him. I got late to come to the car as I was supervising this,” explained Faika. But her ex-husband had other thoughts. “Where were you?” he asked as she got in, and just as she answered the car swerved. “He beat my face and body and I felt the blood gushing down my nose. His driving was not near perfect, but the beatings were,” she said. The drive was an hour long, but for Fathima Faika it seemed like a long drive to the roads of hell, being beaten at every turn.

Children terrified

“He took me to the house we used to live in and I saw my sons in there. They were terrified. It was a rainy night and I could not recognise my own face,” said Faika.

And once again she had gone to the Borella police to be told that she ought to take treatment before she lodges an entry. “He had many influential friends in high places. I had no one anywhere,” said Faika.

Chased away from the house, Fathima Faika would go to her sons’ schools during the interval and feed them rice. She would stand in the roadside just to get a glance of them. “And then I would walk home in the sun, wiping the unending tears….”
But there came a day in August 2009 when Fathima Faika almost lost her mind. “I did not see them for days, I did not see them in the house, in the school, on the roadside…. nowhere did I see them…” she cried at the thought.

And when she had gone to her sons’ school she had been told that they have been removed from the school. Later she found that the things in the home where her sons had lived were being sold.
It was a heartbreaking frenzy that overtook this mother. “I ran everywhere in desperation. I just could not live without my sons. I could not begin the day without looking at their faces, I could not continue my life without them….” she says.

It has been revealed that Fathima Faika’s sons have gone missing – no one seems to know where they are and these minors have no access to their mother. “I have also been receiving telephone calls from strange people asking me for their money back if I cannot send them for employment overseas,” said a puzzled Faika. Fathima Faika appeals, she begs, she implores – “whoever you are, whatever you are doing, please help me to get my sons back.”

Fathima Faika has made the following complaints to overcome her misery, escape from the dangers and live happily as a mother ­­— with her children. For assaualt and kidnap – CWIB 94/119, 326/72 CWIB (Women and Children’s Bureau), UTR 11477 (119), CIB II 82/305, CIB I 55/57, CIB I 243/123, CIB I 255/12, CIB II 22/27, CIB II 156/220, CIB I 100/144, CIB III 301/150, CIB III 15/297, CIB II 299/331, CIB III 349/44. At Police Headquarters — CIB I 175/30, IGP/APC/109/09.

This is a plea to all mothers – all mothers who are professional women, who are housewives, who are simply mothers and to those women who are unmarried; here is a woman, a young woman whose only experience with romance and marriage is a barrage of beatings, uncertainty and tears. She has lost her most cherished possessions. Who will help her get them back — she is not talking about her jewellery, but her two young sons whose smiles lights up a feeling that surpasses the glitter of gold…

It’s been seven months since I heard their voices and saw their innocent faces,” wails this mother in anguish.

Who will help Fathima Faika to sleep again ­— in the cosy cuddle of her children?