Tunisian military doctor died trying to extricate his son from ISIS

Sunday 17/07/2016

Tunis - Tunisian Army doctor Fathi Bayoudh fought, until his last breath, to free his son from the grips of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Bayoudh, a lieutenant-general, who was head of paediatrics at the Tunis military hospital, was at Is­tanbul Ataturk Airport on June 28th waiting for his wife, Saida, who was flying from Tunis to join him in re­uniting with their only son. They expected he would be extradited to Tunisia after being detained in Tur­key upon suspicion of assisting ISIS in Syria.
Bayoudh was among the 44 peo­ple killed by ISIS assailants at Istan­bul’s main airport on June 28th.
He had taken non-paid leave from his job to find his son. “I will sacrifice my life to save you, son,” Bayoudh wrote to his son Anouar, 26, in an e-mail exchange during the more than two months that he spent working to rescue his son from ISIS.
Anouar Bayoudh joined ISIS in 2015 before changing his mind. “They are savage, monsters. Please bring me out of here,” he once told his father, who made contacts with smugglers and Syria rebel leaders in attempts to get his son to Turkey.
Details of his struggle were re­counted by his wife to friends and relatives who gathered at the Bay­oudhs’ home in Tunis before his burial on July 1st.
“Fathi did all he could for his son,” said Saida Bayoudh, as she showed messages Fathi exchanged with Anouar.
An estimated 5,000 Tunisians have joined ISIS and other radical Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq. About 800 are believed to have re­turned to Tunisia and are under the watch of authorities. Dozens have been killed in battle.
While attention has focused on poorer young Tunisians being lured by ISIS in an effort to escape pover­ty, the Bayoudh family epitomised the successful urban upper-middle class with good jobs and a comfort­able villa in the Ennasr district of Tunis.
That was before ISIS ripped the family apart.
The trouble began at al-Salam mosque in Tunis where Anouar Bayoudh, a medical student, was recruited by ISIS.
“For the past five years, this mosque was a hotbed of extrem­ism as it was out of state control,” said Ali Ghorbal, who leads Friday prayers at the mosque. “As a result, up to 15 young people from Ennasr district, including students and engineers, were recruited to join Daesh in Syria,” he said using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“[Anouar] was a good boy, very polite but not very religious. He did not even pray all the time,” his mother said.
Anouar Bayoudh told his family last October that he was going to Switzerland for a training session. Less than a month later he tele­phoned to announce he was in Iraq where he had joined ISIS.
But his enthusiasm for the ex­tremist group seemed to fizzle after he was sent to Raqqa in Syria, the de facto capital of ISIS’s self-pro­claimed caliphate.
“He asked his father to rescue him… He was very afraid of these people,” Saida Bayoudh said. “In the messages he sent his father, Anouar described them as mon­sters and would say that Daesh was a sham.”
The Bayoudh case has shown not only that ISIS recruits from all sec­tors of society but also shed light on the plight of returning jihadists.
Upon his eventual return to Tu­nisia from Turkey, Anouar Bayoudh was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the Tunis military hospital. He is reported to have reacted hys­terically to the news of his father’s death. However, after public outcry over the medical attention he was given, an arrest warrant was issued charging him with joining a terror­ist organisation abroad.
Issam Dardouri, head of the civic Security and Citizenship Associa­tion, took issue with people who showed sympathy towards Anouar Bayoudh.
“He is like the other armed mili­tants in Syria. They are criminals. The hospitalisation and the sympa­thy are a form of normalisation of Daesh,” he said.
“The case of the fighters in con­flict zones abroad is a booby trap for the government here. They are not coming back from holiday-making. They are returning home from kill­ing fields armed with a hate-and-death mindset.”