For the family of pizza maker Saiful Islam, a victim of the Holey Artisan Bakery terrorist attack, insult is added to the grief of the loss.
Saiful Islam Choukider, 40, a pizza chef in Holey Artisan, was killed during the attack, but it is not confirmed whether he was killed by the terrorists when they stormed the bakery on the night of July 1, 2016, or by the security force when they conducted Operation Thunderbolt to end the terror siege next morning.
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Chef Saiful at the Holey Bakery Dhaka Tribune
Police marked him an unidentified terrorist in the beginning, and this was carried in various media reports. Since then, there have been no statements from law enforcement that present evidence of Saiful's involvement in the attack, but he has been treated in the same manner as the identified terrorists.
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While the other victims' bodies were returned to their families after post-mortem, three days after the attack, Saiful's body was retained by the police, along with the bodies of the terrorists. He was buried in September in Dhaka with the terrorists, without informing his family.
The last phone call
In Naria upazila's Kalukathi village, Sonia Akhter, Saiful's wife, recalls the last phone conversation she had with her husband. Right before the attack, he called his wife to let her know that he was coming home for the Eid holiday that would start in two days.
It was a cheerful phone call.
Saiful told her how he had bought new clothes for her and the two children. But before the night ended, the hopes of a pleasant holiday would become a nightmare. Around midnight Sonia learned that the cafe was under attack.
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Holey Artisan attack casualty Saiful Islam Choukider's wife and children Dhaka Tribune
She kept calling Saiful but he would not pick up. After 1am the phone was turned off. In the morning, his two sisters rushed to Dhaka. But there was no trace of Saiful at the Combined Military Hospital or at the cafe.
A beloved father
Saiful was the second of late Abul Hashem Choukider's five children. His father passed away when he was six, and the responsibilities of the family were thrust upon young Saiful's shoulders, ending his dream of an education.
But he was resilient. In the early '90s, he sold a small property and took loans from relatives to travel to Germany, looking for work. After 10 years working there, he had to return in 2004 because he could not acquire the necessary legal permits.
In Germany, Saiful acquired the skill of making pizzas. It was because of this skill that Holey Artisan Bakery appointed him in February 2014 as a chef.
At the time of his death, Saiful's daughters Samia and Imli were nine and six years old respectively. His wife Sonia was six months pregnant. Three months after the Holey attack, a son was born.
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Holey Artisan attack casualty Saiful Islam Choukider's wife and mother Dhaka Tribune
Saiful's mother Sommeher Bibi, 70, broke down in tears as she described how she ran from one office to another, begging for the return of her son's body.
“My son never did anything bad. He was wearing his chef's clothes when he died.
“They would not even let me see him for a last time. All I ask now is that they stop calling him a terrorist,” she said.
Sonia said life was now a constant struggle for her, Sommeher and the three children.
“I have been living off of support from the family and other people. How long can we live like this?” she said.