Tuesday, April 16

Opinion: My brother was murdered by the ‘Isis Beatle’ – now we finally have justice

“Guilty”. As these two syllables rang out around Court Room 900 in Alexandria, Virginia today, and British Isis fighter El Shafee Elsheikh was found guilty of role in kidnapping and killing hostages, an eight-year chapter of pain for my family was finally brought to an end.

A long, cold shadow has followed my family around ever since my brother David, a humanitarian worker, was taken hostage and beheaded by Isis in September 2014. Held captive for 19 months in Syria, his death was filmed and broadcast for the world to see – one of 27 victims at the hands of a now-infamous British gang of terrorists.

The past few months have been especially confronting for the whole family, having to relive the worst days of our lives as they are played out in the media. The court case heard details about the conditions in which David was kept, which – until now – we were guarded from.

Nothing can prepare you for the feelings of helplessness, uncertainty – even guilt – that are anchored to the heavy burden of grief. It was something I observed during my 15 years as a psychiatric nurse, but only when you go through it yourself are you able to understand how crushing it can be.

In being found guilty, Elsheikh – who became known as the ‘Isis Beatle’ – is the last of the three surviving members of the gang to be successfully tried for their crimes.

Aine Davis was convicted in a Turkish court in 2017, while Alexanda Kotey – who has already pleaded guilty – will be sentenced in the near future, during which I will be delivering a statement in court. The fourth, Mohammed Emwazi, was killed in an airstrike in 2015.

Also Read  Elon Musk becomes Twitter’s largest shareholder.

For the most part, David’s 44 years of life were full of happiness, service and acts of kindness. His drive to help his fellow man is what fuelled him, and it is that hunger which took him to places few people put on their then holiday list: South Sudan, the former Yugoslavia and Libya, to name a few.

What is most difficult for us as a family is that despite this rich life, his name and his proud legacy have been stolen from him by his executioners. He will be remembered instead for the horrific acts he was subjected to. Few will ever know the David I loved: the younger brother who brought joy into my life – and drove me up the wall – in equal measure.

Although these two men were tried in the US, they are British – and their beliefs were moulded by corrupting, malicious influences in our own backyard. It would be easy to point fingers, or to be swallowed up by “what ifs”. For a long while, I was.

However, it’s always been in the Haines DNA to stand up and fight for what is right, and not to be overcome by setbacks, however big they might be. Instead, I took a more fulfilling path – at first for my own benefit; a way of confronting the deep-rooted pain that lived inside me.

I later realised that my way out of this darkness – through dialogue, tolerance and a will to understand others – was just as powerful a tonic for division and hatred elsewhere in our society.

Also Read  From Hollywood's illusion factory, some unexpected reality

In 2015, I set up Global Acts of Unity (GAU), an initiative which has taken me to schools throughout every corner of the country, delivering talks in over 400 schools and institutions, reaching more than 100,000 people to promote togetherness and bridge divides sown by hateful elements.

I have witnessed a tremendous response from those I have spoken to, and it has only strengthened my will to fight this fight and ensure no one follows the same path David’s enslavers did.

As the sentencing of Alexanda Kotey approaches, I prepare for the unenviable opportunity of addressing one of my brother’s killers in person.

In truth, no prison term can fully justify the crimes committed against David nor account for the trail of heartache it set in motion. My mother, unable to process what had happened to her child, lost her grip on life and slowly drifted to her death.

My father’s dementia accelerated following David’s murder and he eventually passed in 2017. Not only did we lose David, but I believe my parents were also victims of their brutality, too. I have always laid the blame for their deaths firmly at their feet.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

That said, the proper process of justice provides some reassurance for me. The court proceedings – however hard they are to confront, with its focus on the perpetrators and the evidence of the evil committed – proves that the legal system can have a more profound, lasting impact for closure than responding with violence or hatred.

Also Read  Ohio Republicans want to impeach Maureen O'Connor over redistricting

It is important to recognise how this separates us from those on stand – my brother was never given the fair justice that his killers have been afforded.

Although David’s bones remain buried in the desert, he walks with me every day. I will continue to fight to ensure his courageous, kind spirit – which stands in opposition to everything his captors represented – out-survives the legacy thrust on him.

Mike Haines OBE is the brother of humanitarian aid worker David Haines, who was brutally murdered by Daesh in September 2014 in Syria. Since that tragic event, Mike has devoted his life to spreading this message of togetherness through his Global Acts of Unity campaign to people of all backgrounds, faiths and religions. So far, he has spoken to over 100,000 students across 400 schools nationwide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *