A victim of terrorism speaks out

(July 1, 2011) – When I recall my life – which I once thought would be normal, as most people assume theirs will be – I tend to divide it into three stages. One of those is the most traumatic, leaving deep wounds that have never ceased to cause me pain and suffering: the death of my nine-year-old son, Ali, at the hands of terrorists.

The first phase encompasses my identity and my family. I was born in the Middle East and lived most of my life there. God was good to me. I married and had four children: Mohammad, Ali, Ayah and Adyan. Happiness shone from their eyes when we were together, when they went to school or when they played.

This normal life, however, did not last for long. In 2007, which marks the onset of my life’s second phase, life would change forever. Ali was murdered as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a terrorist attack.

I lost consciousness when I first heard the news, and then ran out into the street screaming. I felt I’d sunk into an abyss of desperation. I couldn’t feel my body or the presence of those around me. I felt like I was in a black hole.

After this event, I kept my children prisoners in their rooms. They were not allowed to leave the house because I feared that they too would be killed. I felt, strangely enough, that I too had turned into a terrorist, imposing my will on my young prisoners. After some time of exhibiting this kind of paranoid behaviour, I was told to seek professional help, and I began consulting on a regular basis with a psychiatrist, who tried to bring some life back into my numb body and soul.

The psychiatrist advised me to write a letter entitled, “Goodbye Ali”. This letter would, in time, help me comprehend his death and reach some sort of an emotional closure with what had happened to him.

During what I categorise as the third stage in my life, God has given me power and patience. The oppressed and the patient have their retribution and reward. Perhaps Ali is part of helping me feel this way, since he is in God’s heaven waiting for me, knowing that I will surely be joining him.

The Qur’an is meant to bring peace to all people. It prohibits killing and preaches peace. What I don’t understand then is how the killing of innocent people – like my son – is done in the name of the Qur’an? Terrorists have only blemished the name of Islam? Does God not say that “whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind” (Qur’an 5:32)?

Today, I find solace in my son Mohammad, who is studying to become an engineer, and my daughters Ayah, who is aspiring to be a dentist, and Adyan, who is still in high school, hoping to achieve her aspirations of going to university. I no longer live in my home country. But it is still alive in every part of me. After all, in its soil is housed my child, Ali.


* Bushra Mohsen is the victim of a terrorist attack during which she lost her young son. This article is part of a series on the consequences of terrorism written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).