Navi Mumbai woman desperate to track down kids kidnapped by ex-husband

Jan 28, 2017, 07:40 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Navi Mumbai woman battles to track down her three children, who were abducted by ex-husband from South Africa and smuggled into Mozambique; Union offers help

Somiya Yunus Basar at her Seawoods residence. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Somiya Yunus Basar at her Seawoods residence. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Every day for the last five months, Somiya Yunus Basar has been plummeting deeper into the fires of hell. The 32-year-old resident of Navi Mumbai had been waiting for word on the whereabouts of her three children, aged 11, 10 and 3, including one with special needs, who were abducted and smuggled by their father from South Africa to Mozambique last August.

As if losing her children wasn't enough, she was detained for a month last year by South African authorities over suspicion that the tots were trafficked. She saw a ray of hope yesterday after the Union women and child development ministry took up the case of tracking down her children.

Abdul Gaffar Abdul Majid Tarmahomed with Sarah
Abdul Gaffar Abdul Majid Tarmahomed with Sarah

Locked in bitter battle
Basar married British citizen Abdul Gaffar Abdul Majid Tarmahomed in 2004 in an alliance arranged by her family and moved to Mozambique with him to live with his joint family. Tarmahomed had a family-run business in the southern African country. A year later came their firstborn — Naeem. The following year, Zayed was born.

The marriage, however, then turned rocky. Basar's mother-in-law allegedly started beating her up and torturing her. In 2007, she moved out to a flat in a family-run factory. Things only took a turn for the worse thereafter. In 2008, Tarmahomed packed Basar and Zayed off to live with her family in Seawoods, Navi Mumbai, keeping young Naeem with him. Naeem, though, was a child with special needs and required constant attention.

Zayed and Naeem
Zayed and Naeem

"He suffered frequent ear infections as an infant. His speech and language development was, however, delayed, and he attained motor milestones late. When I left, he took ill and my husband called me back to take care of him," said Somiya.

But the cycle of alleged harassment and domestic violence only continued. In 2009, Tarmahomed was cut off from the family business for allegedly failing to dump Basar. The couple then started their own business.

Things seemed to be going well for the couple — they had another child, Sarah, in 2013. They moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, a year later following a spate in attacks on civilians in Mozambique.

The business flourished in Johannessburg, but Tarmahomed allegedly took to drugs and began beating up Basar and the children. During an altercation in December 2015, her divorced her via triple talaq and even got the divorce documents from the Muslim Judicial Council. The documents, however, had no mention of the children's custody, owing to which the two ended up in court within a month to fight out a bitter, long-drawn battle.

The court granted Basar the custody of the children — with the father allowed visitation rights with permission to take them out within the city, provided the mother was kept in the loop at all times — while the proceedings were on. But Tarmahomed allegedly fled with all her documents, including her and the children's passports, the marriage certificate and her driver's licence. The police could retrieve only the passports. Besides, Tarmahomed failed to turn up for court hearings, which delayed the proceedings.

Fleeing the country
During his fifth court-allowed visit to the children on August 19 last year, he took them out, promising to return them the next day. After he failed to turn up, the South African Police Service (SAPS) issued an arrest warrant against him, and found that he had crossed over into Mozambique from the porous border of Lebombo in South Africa with two boys on August 20. There was no word on Sarah's whereabouts.

Just as her life came crashing down, Basar was taken away by the anti-human trafficking cell of the SAPS, suspecting that the kids were victims of child trafficking and that she had played a role in the smuggling. She was relentlessly questioned for a month by the authorities and released only after the Interpol's intervention, thanks to her father's persistent efforts to secure her release. She was sent back to her family last November, where she has been waiting for news of her children.

Ministry intervenes
The search has been futile so far. After repeated requests to several authorities in Johannesburg, the department of international relations and cooperation, South Africa, turned down Basar's plea to track down her children, saying it doesn't have jurisdiction over Mozambique. She then approached the Union ministry of women and child development. The ministry sent her an email yesterday that it was taking up her case. This email is all that Basar is clutching onto, in hopes of being reunited with her children.


Father in the wrong, says his relative

Hassam, Tarmahomed's uncle, told mid-day from South Africa that he doesn't condone the father's act. "He thinks that the children belong to him, which is totally wrong. The children are minors and need their mother. He is completely wrong."

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