Father of doctor imprisoned as ISIS suspect springs to his defence

19 March 2019 By Paul Martin

In an exclusive interview, Major Shawkat Raza told correspondent.world:

My son couldn’t hurt a fly.  As a child, he was so timid he would even faint if he got an injection. I split up from his mother when the boy was 13, and he was only able very occasionally after that to phone me.  He told me never to tell his mother, my ex-wife, that he’d had any contact, otherwise she’d be furious. He joined the Air Force, but got dismissed after 2 or three years.  His first commander was a big supporter of my son’s talents.  But the commander who replaced the first one was a bearded religious man who deeply disapproved of my son’s activities.  My son was a brilliant singer and an excellent guitar-player.  He also starred in some soaps on Pakistan TV – they were love stories. His dream of becoming a pilot was shattered.  That’s when he decided to try for dentistry or medicine, and came first in an entrance exam for a top medical school in Pakistan. He’s got a brilliant mind.

Dr Muhammad Saqib Raza at his wedding

In his last phone-call in 2017 he was terrified.  ‘I think the smugglers are going to slaughter me and take my money,’ he said. He had escaped from ISIS-controlled territory and was paying smugglers to get him and two other guys across the border into Turkey.  He told my ex-wife he was the only one the smugglers had not taken to safety yet.  So he thought that, rather than pocket the agreed fee, they were going to take all his money and kill him. Next I heard, from the Red Cross, was that he was locked up in a Kurdish military prison in Syria. I suppose that’s where you met him.

I’m convinced he has been the victim of a plot to extort a huge dowry payment.  When he wanted to marry (name withheld) her relatives demanded I provide either a house or a valuable piece of land as a dowry.  I don’t have either.  My son then foolishly signed a dowry agreement that if he divorced her he would pay her 200,000 pounds.

Members of her family worked hard to damage his relationship with his new wife, and eventually succeeded.  Apparently he got huge flack from his in-laws when they saw he was watching what they considered a porn movie on TV.  Actually it was probably just a typical Western romantic story. Soon afterwards, no doubt under huge pressure from her own family, my daughter-in-law wounded herself and blamed it on a non-existent attack by her husband.  The police locked my son up for a night – until she confessed the wound was self-inflicted. A few days later the police hauled him in again, saying they had been tipped off that he was expressing extremist opinions.  I can guess who tipped them off!

Dr Raza in happier times

I can tell you my son could never have been an extremist.  He was a very very lax Muslim.  It’s true he started going to the mosque in England more regularly, but he told me by phone the real reason: he wanted to reduce the pressure from his in-laws, who kept telling his wife to split from him as he was a bad Muslim. It’s also probably true he started wearing Islamic clothing.  But that was because he had gone to Mecca on a pilgrimage – I suppose also to impress his in-laws.  Most people who come back from a pilgrimage wear the long cloak found in Saudi Arabia.  It’s a sort of status symbol to impress your friends and family.  After a while these pilgrims just switch back to normal Western clothing. But when my son got questioned by police about having extremist views, his in-laws warned him he would have his British passport removed if he hung around much longer.   They advised him to go to another country.

Dr Raza’s casual look – undated.

He went first to Pakistan, then got a job as a dentist in the Gulf.  He found this work demeaning as he was a maxillo-facial surgeon.  So he chose to go to Turkey to set up a surgical business.

The next thing I knew, he’d disappeared, and was in Syria. He could occasionally contact his mother from Syria.  There was a sort of phone shop where he was allowed a short time by Skype to call his mum, my ex-wife.  Once he managed a short call from a hospital.  He’d been asked to remove a bullet from someone’s body, so he managed to borrow a hospital staff-member’s phone. I don’t know if he’s seen it but a Pakistan court has granted his wife a divorce from my son.  Though she’s initiated the divorce the court has somehow demanded my son pays his ex-wife 150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand pounds) . [MediaZones has a copy of the divorce order] .  I’m sure he could contest it if he ever got out and went to Pakistan.  But there he could also face jail of 6 to nine years.

I don’t see much hope he can get out of where he is. I would love to go and visit him, and the Kurdistan foreign minister says he’ll help me get to the border with Syria.  I’m ready to go to Syria right now.

[Note: Correspondent.world is not attesting to the accuracy of any statement made above.]

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