Investigating claims of Guyanese woman stuck in Syria ‘complex’ – Foreign Minister

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The investigation into the claims that a 29-year-old Guyanese woman was tricked into moving to Syria and is now stuck there with her children, is ongoing, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd.

Relatives said Rafena Kumar, who is now a mother to two young children aged 3 and 5, has been in Syria for the past five years and her efforts to return to Guyana have proved futile.

In January, Todd told the News Room that the Guyanese government was investigating the authenticity of the case before they could move forward.

He also explained that given Kumar’s current location, verifying the case will take some time.

When engaged on the matter recently, the Foreign Affairs Minister could not yet confirm the authenticity of the family’s claims.

“There’s a lot that you need to do to really get to the bottom of it,” Minister Todd explained.

And he contended that investigating the claims made could be “quite complex.”

The Guyana Police Force is one of the agencies tasked with investigating the family’s claims, Minister Todd said. He added that Guyana has been seeking assistance through “diplomatic channels”.

He, however, emphasised that diplomatic processes “can be very lengthy”.

Kumar reportedly left Guyana for Syria to work as a nurse aid in 2015, four years after the start of the ongoing civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of persons dead and millions more displaced.

Subrena Mohammed, who identified herself as Kumar’s sister, told the News Room in January that she (Kumar) had joined an organisation purporting to be a Syrian NGO carrying out humanitarian work.

Kumar was said to have been a student nurse when she left Guyana. According to Mohammed, it was the death of her father during surgery that prompted Kumar to leave.

Mohammed said Kumar tried to leave and was tricked into thinking she was being smuggled out of the country. Instead, she was taken to a village that soon came under the control of ISIS.

The woman added that sister had to surrender to the American-backed Kurdish forces. The Kurds have been capturing areas from Syrian rebel forces who are also fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Kumar is now safe at a repatriation camp, the sister said, asking the government to request her sister’s return home.

On Monday, Mohammed told the News Room that police officers visited the family in January seeking information to verify that the Kumar was indeed Guyanese. Mohammed also noted that the Foreign Affairs Ministry also requested some of the woman’s documents, including her passport and birth certificate.

Now, the family awaits further updates from the local authorities on what assistance can be provided to Kumar. Mohammed, however, said that the family has still kept in contact with the woman.

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