THE BRAVE DAUGHTER OF A BRITISH AID WORKER WHO WAS BEHEADED BY ISIS HAS SPOKEN EXCLUSIVELY TO POLITICALITE ABOUT THE DAY SHE HAD TO WATCH HER FATHER’S EXECUTION.
BETHANY HAINES was 16-years-old when, in 2013, she received the news that her beloved father, David Haines, had been taken hostage by the terrorist group.
Haines was abducted by an unidentified armed gang near a refugee camp straddling the Turkish border while working in a Syrian internally displaced persons (IDP) camp.
Kidnapped along with an Italian aid worker named Federico Motka, David Haines’ eventual widely-publicized execution at the hands of British-born ISIS recruit ‘Jihadi John’ and the British ISIS cell nicknamed ‘The Beatles’.
The Yorkshire-born father of two, who lived in Perth, spent 18 months as a hostage in Syria before being beheaded by Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed ‘Jihadi John’, in September 2014, placing further pressure upon Western governments to act.
With the smoke now clearing over Syria following the downfall of ISIS, Mr Haine’s daughter Bethany has grown into a strong, beautiful young woman, is working to return his remains to the UK, and has spoken to Politicalite to tell her story and encourage others not to suffer in silence.
“I grew up in the village of Scone, just outside Perth” Bethany reminisced. “Our family was really tight-knit and consisted of weekly family movie nights, annual holidays and day trips at the weekend. My Mum and Dad divorced when I was twelve, and he started a new life in Croatia. We spoke regularly through text and phone calls and I’d see him a few times a year as e had started doing aid work again.”
The details surrounding her father’s capture still remain clear in Bethany’s mind.
“I found out about my Dad working in Turkey through text” she recalled. “He was struggling to find a job and seemed really excited. I didn’t know he’d be entering Syria and only found out he was there when he was kidnapped. When I heard he was going to Turkey though, I was happy. He loved to help people and he’d been to far worse places. It was difficult having a Dad who worked away in dangerous places, but he knew how to handle himself.
“Dad was kidnapped on March 12th. I found out on April 8th. I was in France for my birthday and I’d started to get worried that he hadn’t called me, which he always did on my birthday. I started getting a gut-wrenching feeling that something was wrong and asked my Mum to find out what was going on. Upon returning home, my Mum sat me down to tell me my Dad had been kidnapped. Initially I was relieved because it meant there was still a chance of him coming home”.
“The next couple of days consisted of meeting my uncle, who gave me more details of the kidnapping and assured me that my Dad would come home. I just expected my Dad to be released once his kidnappers realised he was only there to help people.”
“I was at my boyfriends house which was in the middle of nowhere and had terrible signal when I first heard the news about what happened next. I’d decided to turn my phone off and we had an early night. Next thing I know there’s a knock at the door ad I could see the reflection of police lights. I immediately thought my boyfriend had done something wrong. Then I heard my Mum’s voice”.
“It took ages getting ready to come out of the bedroom, and when I entered the kitchen I saw two police officers, my Mum, and her brother. I knew what they were going to say. They told me a video had been released and they were sure it was my Dad. Instead of crying I was scarily calm and told the police officers that it ether was my Dad or it wasn’t. They asked me to go home, but I refused because I just wasn’t ready to deal with it. I needed one more night, so they left and I had a cup of tea and a cigarette and pretended that everything was fine, and went to sleep”.
“I was approached by so many people telling me they’d watched the video and asking if I had. I still couldn’t wrap my head round my Dad not coming home, so I said to the police that I wanted to watch it. They said I could do that at a police station. It was frustrating that someone was trying to tell me how and when I could watch my own Dad’s death, so I locked myself in the bathroom and watched the full clip. My heart sank when I saw him in the orange jumpsuit. I saw his scar on his head and knew it was my Dad. He started talking and I couldn’t stop watching. It was a comfort to know he was strong in his final moments. Upon seeing the remains though, I felt physically sick and wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I just sat there.”
Bethany is open about the impact that such a brutal and devastating event has had.
“Something that big can’t not affect your life” she said. “Everything changes. It was like that from the moment we were told of the kidnapping. My life consisted of secrets, Foreign Office calls, and the media. My Mum was my constant throughout the time and still is. Without her I don’t think I’d be here. She was there to wipe my tears, to listen to me shouting and to offer support. It brought me and my Mum closer as she’s the only one I have left.”
“At first I didn’t cope. I didn’t want to have to deal with it. I tried to block the pain with partying, but after getting involved with a charity known as hostage UK they made it bearable. They knew what I was going through and let me know that all I was feeling was valid.”
“I’ve had amazing support from different people though, and this summer I plan to launch a campaign raising awareness for my Dad and the other victims. Much of Syria is being liberated. It’s the right time to bring him home. The campaign is about getting as much information as possible regardless of where it comes from. I’m not interested in getting people into trouble. I just want my Dad home or to know I’ve done everything I can to try.”
“Getting Dad’s body would give us closure. There’s always a ‘what if’ question’, but I think that then we could finally grieve and lay him to rest at peace.”
Setting-out on her new mission to find her father’s remains, Bethany seems well-prepared for the complex task ahead.
“I was told so little information” she said. “And a lot of inaccuracies, so I had to just find out for myself. I spent hours on the internet trying to track-down places they had been held at ad speaking to people to find out what happened. It does shape your life, from my career choices to everyday when I check the news, dreading to see if there’s been another attack.”
“Extremism is like a disease if it’s not stopped will spread. We need to stop it now before anymore innocent men, women and children fall victim”.
When we asked Bethany what advice she’d give to family members of other terrorist victims, she wisely said: “I’d tell them that I’m here for anyone that needs to talk. Talking helps. Everything you’re feeling is valid, and you should fight everyday for the truth. It does get better, and having support from friends and family is essential. Don’t let them win!”
POLITICALITE CONTINUES TO REPORT ON THE UNSEEN AFFECTS OF TERRORISM, PRODUCING GROUNDBREAKING REPORTS AND INTERVIEWS WITH SURVIVORS AND THOSE LEFT BEHIND.