A Trinidadian woman who was jailed in Iraq for her affiliation to the Islamic State (ISIS), the terrorist group which has caused havoc in some countries for years, is set to be deported home after serving her sentence in July.
Guardian Media has been reliably informed that Sabirah Khadijah Waheed, who is currently serving a six-year sentence at the prison, is expected to be released in July and will be immediately deported, along with at least four children in her care.
News of her incarceration came to light after a social media video showing a boy in an Iraqi prison surfaced this week. The boy was seen behind bars and being fed in what appeared to be a cell block.
Guardian Media was reliably told that the boy’s mother is Trinidadian and his father a Guyanese national who left the Caribbean to join the Islamic State around 2012.
His parents entered Iraq via Turkey. However, sources confirmed that the boy’s mother was killed and his father is unaccounted for and possibly dead, so he has been in Waheed’s custody as they are both in the same prison.
The boy, who was born in Iraq, is one of the deceased woman’s children in Waheed’s care. Waheed has two children of her own, one of them born in T&T and the other in Iraq.
Guardian Media has been reliably informed that travel documents have already been requested by Iraqi officials for Waheed and the children to be deported to T&T through the UK.
In Iraq, there are reportedly four Trini women and seven children, three born in Trinidad and four in Iraq.
Speaking on behalf of Waheed yesterday, attorney Criston J Williams said, “I can confirm that this minor is currently languishing in a camp, well sorry, in a prison in Iraq. He is in the care of another Trinidadian woman who has been convicted of terrorism and is due to be returned to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, or, well, deported actually, to Trinidad in the month of July 2023.”
He said the woman’s family was now anxious about her situation, due to the lack of legislation here on the issue of persons affiliated to ISIS who are deported back to their home countries.
“What I can say is that the family views this particular instance as a wake-up call to the Government and the country as to what has been publicly put forward as any sort of legislation that the Honourable Attorney General may wish to put forward at this particular stage, because there is no terrorism bill, no returning legislation that can be passed before she is deported in the month of July. And that must create a scenario, it must create issues of national security and a conversation about national security and it’s a bit more complex because now we have children and I can say, from my instructions, that these children, they actually don’t know what the moon looks like or they don’t know what the sun looks like or what stars look like and that’s my direct instructions from Iraq.”
He admitted that the video may have been leaked online to press home to the T&T Government the issue of Trinis who are languishing in both prisons and detention camps abroad after being detained for their affiliation to ISIS.
Williams said, “What I can say is that there’s a big global media force to actively persuade the government of Trinidad and Tobago to show due respect and due regard to women and children and this may just be one such video of a child, but there may very well be more instances globally where Trinidadians are languishing in conditions that are contrary to any fundamental human rights.”
At least 130 nationals of T&T travelled to ISIS-controlled territory between 2013 and 2016, according to T&T’s Ministry of National Security. That is more people per capita than from any other Western country.
Most came from three tight-knit communities in Trinidad and went to Syria and Iraq as families, taking their children.
Guardian Media attempted to contact Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne and the National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds for information on the story yesterday but their phones went unanswered.
The latest video and situation involving Waheed also comes just two weeks after the internationally based advocacy group Human Rights Watch released a report on Trinidad and Tobago nationals in Syria detention camps.
The report criticised the T&T Government for moving at snail’s pace after the United Nations wrote the government a letter telling them they have citizens in detention camps in Syria.
There are over 90 T&T nationals in Syria and Iraq, including 56 children and 12 women.