Members of the Tunisian army stand next to the coffin of Tunisian doctor Fathi Bayoudh, who was killed in the Istanbul airport attack, during a military ceremony on June 30, 2016, at the Aouina military base, on the outskirts of Tunis
Members of the Tunisian army stand next to the coffin of Tunisian doctor Fathi Bayoudh, who was killed in the Istanbul airport attack, during a military ceremony on June 30, 2016, at the Aouina military base, on the outskirts of Tunis © Sofienne Hamdaoui - AFP/File
Members of the Tunisian army stand next to the coffin of Tunisian doctor Fathi Bayoudh, who was killed in the Istanbul airport attack, during a military ceremony on June 30, 2016, at the Aouina military base, on the outskirts of Tunis
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Kaouther Larbi
Last updated: July 3, 2016

Tunisian father seeking to rescue son from IS dies in Istanbul airport attacks

Saida Bayoudh's only son joined the Islamic State group and her husband Fathi flew from Tunisia to Turkey to bring him home. Instead the father returned alone to be buried Friday, a victim of the Istanbul airport attack.

Hundreds of men and women, many of them in tears, turned out for the funeral of Saida's husband, Fathi Bayoudh, who was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town of Ksour Essef, south of Tunis.

He was among the 44 people killed in Tuesday night's gun and bomb spree at Istanbul's Ataturk airport.

Fathi Bayoudh's body was flown back to Tunis and received in a military ceremony on Thursday.

Turkish officials have pointed the finger of blame at the Islamic State jihadist group, although no one has claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Late last year, Saida and her husband learned that their only son Anouar, 26, had joined IS in Iraq and then in Syria, like thousands of other young Tunisians.

But the young man had a change of heart after he realised the jihadists were "monsters", his mother told AFP earlier as friends and relatives gathered to pay their condolences.

Her face pale and drawn, she recounted how over the past two months her husband, who headed the paediatric unit of Tunis military hospital, did everything in his power to bring Anouar home.

"My husband... did the impossible to save his son," Saida said.

For two months, Fathi Bayoudh, who took an unpaid leave of absence from his job, travelled back and forth between Tunisia and Turkey to try to track down his son.

Anouar, who had turned himself in to the anti-regime Free Syrian Army after realising that he no longer wanted to be part of IS, was arrested and jailed in Turkey.

On the day before the attack that claimed his life, Fathi finally received word that Anouar was on Turkish soil.

For the couple, the nightmare was almost over.

Saida flew to Istanbul for the reunion and Fathi was at Ataturk airport to greet her when the attackers struck.

"He was extremely happy... and he asked me to come quickly to Turkey," she said before sighing deeply. "On Tuesday, he was at the airport to meet me."

'THEY WERE MONSTERS'

She recalls how stunned she was when she first heard that Anouar had joined IS and how it affected her and her husband's health.

Saida suffered two mild heart attacks since October and her husband lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) in weight within weeks.

"My son left Daesh (IS) because he wanted to escape and return to Tunisia. He found out that they were monsters," she said.

Anouar studied medicine but was unemployed and, according to his mother, was not a devout Muslim.

"He never prayed regularly but he was respectful," she said.

In October, Anouar told his parents he was going to Switzerland for an internship, but less than a month later he telephoned to say he was in Iraq where he had joined IS.

But his commitment quickly crumbled.

"He asked his father to rescue him... He was very afraid of these people," she said.

"In the messages he sent his father, Anouar described them as monsters and would say that Daesh was a sham," she said.

doctorfathi.jpg
Colleagues of doctor Fathi Bayoudh

After Tuesday's carnage, Tunisian authorities confirmed that their consulate in Istanbul had been in contact with the Bayoudh family since December.

They have since said that Turkey had agreed to allow Anouar to return home soon.

Anouar still does not know that his father was killed trying to save him, according to his mother.

"He'll be back in 24 or 48 hours," she told reporters on Friday.

"Parents need to be more vigilant" about their children joining jihadist groups, she said, adding: "No one is immune."

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