Rasu Sheikh cannot hold back tears seeing his son Selim Sheikh at Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka yesterday. Selim is one of the 15 Bangladeshis who had been held in captivity for 24 days in conflict-torn Iraq. Photo: Rashed Shumon
Rasu Sheikh could not believe his eyes as he saw his son walking towards him at Shahjalal International Airport yesterday.
After being held captive for weeks in Tikrit of Iraq, Selim Sheikh returned home and got reunited with his father.
Sixty-year-old Rasu could barely hold back his tears as he hugged Selim. “I can't express my happiness in words right now. At last I have found my son whom I presumed to be dead,” he said.
“My family was in deep shock. We had nothing to cheer about since my son had been in danger,” mentioned Rasu.
Selim along with 14 other Bangladeshis were held captive by Sunni rebels in trouble-torn Iraq for 24 days. They returned home on an Air Arabia flight around 9:00am.
The motive behind holding the Bangladeshis captive could not be known.
This was the first batch of expatriate workers who returned home under Bangladesh government's arrangement since sectarian violence broke out in the Middle Eastern country last month.
A total of 31 Bangladeshis and 46 Indian nurses were held captive by Sunni rebels in Tikrit from June 11 to July 3.
Freed on July 4, the Indian nurses were taken back by their government that day. But the Bangladeshis had been languishing at Irbil airport. Sixteen of them left the airport in the meantime.
Talking to this newspaper, Selim said, “I couldn't take a breath of relief for 24 days. There was no hope of life.”
The rebels took the expatriates to a building in Tikrit from their workplaces. The captives were not allowed to talk to each other and move outside of a small room.
Selim landed a cleaning job in Iraq early last year. Around six months later, he arranged jobs for his two brothers, who are still working in Kirkuk safely.
Another returnee, Mahbub Alam from Mymensingh, described his ordeal in captivity.
“I lost hope for my life and was always haunted by death. I could hardly take food thinking of my family… I didn't know how many times I remembered Allah seeking His help,” he told The Daily Star.
A resident of Narsingdi, Md Russell said the rebels did not misbehave with them.
“It's true that they didn't allow us to talk to each other and move around. But they assured us that we would be freed. If we tried to flee, we might have been killed,” he mentioned.
Each of the returnees was given Tk 2,000 from the Wage Earners' Welfare Fund of the expatriates welfare ministry, said Badiar Rahman, deputy secretary at the ministry.