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Dhaka Tribune

Saving Yakub: A mother’s journey to rescue her son from Libya

Everyone told her there was no hope, but that did not stop Shahinur Begum to travel to a distant land

Update : 12 Apr 2022, 01:53 PM

A Comilla native, Shahinur Begum had never even been to Dhaka. 

But this brave mother of three travelled 7,000 kilometres to the Libyan capital of Tripoli and rescued her abducted son Yakub Hasan in a story that would even put movies to shame.

This correspondent went to Shahinur’s home at Debidwar upazila’s Kalikapur village on Monday and got first-hand accounts of the events that led to their return.

“Everyone said my son was dead, that he had been killed. But I did not believe it. My husband, who lives in Libya, and I gave the broker Tk20 lakh in total. But after not hearing anything about my son after six months, I got a passport and visa with my husband’s help and decided to go to Libya myself,” Shahinur said.

Her husband Abul Khayer moved to Libya through a broker in 2011 with a hope to spin the wheel of his fortune to the better. He now works as a bricklayer there.

Then in 2019, Shahinur sold a portion of their homestead to send Yakub, who was a seventh grader at the time, to Libya.

For two years Yakub lived with his father, who works at a construction firm in Benghazi.

All was going well for them. In his first year there, Yakub worked at a gas station for a monthly salary of Tk35,000, and at another pump for Tk45,000 the following year.

Yakub and some 150 others were captured while trying to illegally reach Italy by a boat via the Mediterranean, with the help of a broker named Jahangir, who hails from Sylhet.

Yakub then sought the help of another Bangladeshi broker to get out of there with Tk4 lakh from his father.

Yakub tried to go to Italy once again after eight months and was captured again. He would experience true misery during his captivity this time.

He shared a room with 60-70 others. He saw many of his fellow captives dying from malnutrition and constant beatings. 

Yakub had to endure the stench of dead bodies, hunger and thirst while being struck by the end of guns and pipes over ransom.

The captives would be given a single piece of bread on some days and half on others.

Abul Khayer suffered a cardiac arrest while Shahinur was losing her mind after not hearing from their son for months on end.

Seeing no alternative, Shahinur, who does not speak anything other than Bangla, caught a flight to Libya on January 9. 

Along with her husband in Benghazi, she contacted the Bangladesh mission, and with help from the army and International Organization for Migration (IOM), she rescued her son after paying a ransom.

Some 250 other Bangladeshis in captivity were also rescued at the time.

Shahinur finally returned home on March 21 with her son Yakub . 

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