T&T woman imprisoned in Syria writes to family members

Chirs Lewis and Summer Ramirez in happier times.
Chirs Lewis and Summer Ramirez in happier times.

(Trinidad Newsday) Relatives of a woman locked up in a Syrian prison for just under a year wants the state to assist in having her repatriated.

Adill Ramirez, who last communicated with his mother, Summer Ramirez in January last year spoke with Sunday Newsday after receiving a letter from her on Thursday. Ramirez said that the letter is penned in his mother’s handwriting. He said his mother was held trying to cross into to Syria trying to make her way back home.

Both Ramirez and her husband Chris Lewis left TT in 2014 supposedly to fulfill their religious obligation and take part in the holy pilgrimage of Hajj in Saudi Arabia. Ramirez said after performing Hajj and their sins forgiven, the couple wanted to remain in an Islamic country, Ramirez told Sunday Newsday. He said as a Muslim his mother had to obey her husband, who he said had militant views and wanted to fight for his beliefs.

“Honestly this is the first time we got in contact with her for at least a year. The letter does not say what she inside for whether she was convicted or on remand. She was held in Syria trying to leave. She was depressed and wanted to come back home to her family because it (living in the Islamic country) didn’t turn out how she planned it would be.” he said.

Lewis, 34, was originally from Richplain Road, Diego Martin. He left home in August 2014, accompanied by his two wives and two children to perform guard duties in Syria. Lewis was known as Abdul Rahim and ‘Fig Man’ as he sold bananas in his community. In August 2014, Lewis told Jamaat members and relatives that he was going to England to do guard duties and make a better life for himself.

Lewis travelled to Syria with his wives and children and carried out guard duties for ISIS rebels. While in Syria, he married a third woman. In August 2016, while guarding an ISIS compound a US aircraft bombers fired missiles at the compound where he was stationed. Lewis and other ISIS members were killed.

Ramirez said there were rumours that his mother had died in another bomb attack and later that she had been imprisoned but the family had no proof of either and was in an emotional purgatory. During the period of uncertainty the family prayed and asked that God help her. Ramirez said the family plans to visit an attorney and speak with Interpol to get some assistance on his mother’s incarceration and possible repatriation.

In her letter Ramirez stated: “I have been here for 11 months it’s so hard. Please keep close with Jaleel and Tammy please keep out of trouble I need you I miss you. You’re my strength please forgive me for all my short comings, make good examples for the kids and L…Go to the government to see if they can take me back please keep pushing ask anyone who can help please, please I’m begging.”

Speaking with Sunday Newsday on Friday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi advised the family seek legal advice. Asked what if anything the Government could do, Al-Rawi said: “I don’t have the facts of the case first time being made aware of this. If this is a real position, one has to ask why is someone incarcerated for what purpose, what judicial process? It will be dangerous to speculate in this instance. If the family is asking for assistance the family should seek an attorney at law who will give them proper advice” he added that he could not say if the couple were on any terror watch list.

Attorney Nafeesa Mohammed, who has defended the rights of TT Muslims wanting to return after fleeing to Syria said each case should be treated on its own merit. She advised the government not to “turn your back and render them stateless” to those who wish to return to TT after leaving to join ISIS. She added that the Ramirez family should make representation should be made to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Security and Attorney General explaining the circumstance and asking for assistance between governments. She added that there are ways to monitor returning nationals so that those with some fear that they were “brain-washed” and are a threat to the country can appeased.

“Women and children are vulnerable. I don’t think a two year old child can be so radicalised that they can’t be allowed to re-enter the country” Mohammed said.


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