By Brenlee Brothers
Feb. 4, 2016
In December 2012, Bassil Malke read a Facebook message from his friend in Syria.
“Sorry about what we heard. If you need anything, let us know.”
Malke had been living in Canada for two months. From his new home, the UPEI business student typed back a response.
But his friend stopped replying. Concerned, he called his father in Syria and waited for him to pick up.
“Are you OK?”
There was a pause.
“Where are my brothers?”
“One of your brothers… Mike, he… went to get gas.”
“OK,” said Malke. “Then where’s Fadi?”
When Fadi picked up the phone, Bassil knew something was wrong. Eight thousand kilometres away in Damascus City, the capital of Syria, Mike Malke had been kidnapped. While working in his father’s jewelry store, he was taken by members of the terrorist group, ISIS.
They acted normally, pretended to be interested in the jewelry. Asking questions allowed them to move close. They grabbed him, forced him out of the building, into a car and drove off.
For 10 days they held him. They burned his legs. They denied him food and water. He lost 22 pounds. At one point, they lead him to a room. Inside there were 10 bodies.
“This night you must sleep with them,” said one of his captors.
“No. No, please. Please just kill me and put me with them,” Malke pleaded. That night he slept in the room.
Fortunately, Malke’s father had taken down the licence plate number as the car drove away from the jewelry store days earlier. He contacted police and notified them his son had been kidnapped. The police found the car had been stolen.
His father called the traffic department, highway safety and other government departments, but no one could give him an exact answer of the whereabouts of his son. They continued to look for the stolen car, but without an address it was difficult, because most of the areas around Damascus are under the control of the rebels.
It was the kidnappers who made the first contact. They called his father directly, wanting to make a deal. His father negotiated with the terrorists, and agreed to give ISIS $15,000 American, in return for Mike’s life.
Four years later, the Malke’s have started a new life on P.E.I.
This is what ISIS does in Syria. They take people who are wealthy because they need money, and it’s easy to get it that way, said Bassil’s father.
“Syria is too expensive to live there.”
ISIS wants the oil in Syria, so they come from Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere. Members of ISIS are rarely from Syria.
“They are a political problem,” he said.
Mike said they need money to buy guns to make wars in all the Middle East.
“They have a plan to take control of many countries.”
Bassil is the youngest Malke. He’s in his third-year of business at UPEI. His English is better than his parents and two brothers.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories of people being kidnapped, but when it comes to a part of your family, like your brother, it’s a really bad feeling.”
You never know what you’re going to hear, he said.
“You don’t know if he’s alive or not, what they are doing with him, what he’s doing. It’s really harmful.”
There was a lot happening in his brain, he said. He has never been in that moment, so he can’t speak on Mike’s behalf, but it definitely had some effect on him, he said.
“We can feel it.”