Tuesday January 22, 2019
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Gurpinder Kaur Cheem: Voice of 39 Families who Lost Family Members to Iraq

“We couldn’t even say goodbye to him", says Majinder's mother, who has been missing in Iraq for two years

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Gurpinder Kaur Cheem. Image Source: Indian Express
  • Gurpinder Kaur Cheem has been desperately trying to get the Government’s attention through various means
  • She demands answers about her brother, and relatives of 39 other families who went to Iraq for work, but never returned
  • Majinder had traveled abroad in search for work to help in the family’s finances

Gurpinder Kaur Cheem, a 30 year-old teacher has taken to Twitter to try and get the Prime Minister’s attention.

  • “Today’s June 15. 2 years completed but 39 Indians missing in Iraq did not came back to their homes. When they will come back, Sushma.”
  • “Families of those Indians losing hope. Will they come back or not. What happens. Lots of questions but no ans. Who will give ans.”

The above mentioned tweets are examples of Gurpinder’s efforts to contact the government in order to get some clarity on the location of her brother Manjinder Singh, as well as the kin of the 39 families.

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“My request to the Prime Minister is that he should meet us at least once, listen to us,” she told The Indian Express, talking about her efforts to meet him, although in vain. “Some time ago, I managed to get the number for a senior official in the PMO,” she says, “and I called him. It was my luck that he picked up. I told him that I want to meet Modiji about my brother and the other boys, but he said that I should contact the MEA. After that I have sent many messages over SMS but there has been no response.”

Gurpinder said she had no clue about the Prime Minister’s trip to Qatar, where he spoke about Indian workers living in the country. The mother of a ten year old boy said she would have requested him to bring up the issue of her brother, since Qatar has some links with Iraq.

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Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, declared as ISIS capital. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

It is suspected that the missing people have been abducted by the Islamic State in 2014, an idea that Gurpinder refuses to entertain.

Along with the other families, she had a meeting with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj last year, but no other information about this has been provided to the families since then, said the express report.

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Her brother Manjinder had decided to go abroad for a few years to earn money so that he could help his family. Their father had to sell their land in Amritsar to finance their mother’s cancer treatment, so they moved to work on a rich relative’s farm. Manjinder got an opportunity to work in Dubai after failing his English test, which is a basic requirement for labor in the West.

According to Indian Express, the family had paid Rs. 2 lakh to Harjit Masih, an agent, to help Manjinder travel abroad for work. However, they withdrew their request and asked for the money back. They did not wish for Manjinder to work in a different country any longer. It was too late – Manjinder called up the family saying he was on his way to Dubai to work for some time – little did he know he would end up in Iraq.

Harjit Masih, in disappointing news, said that there was a fallout and the ISIS shot all the others. He himself escaped from the place safely. Masih is now in jail for human trafficking charges, but Gurpinder is not satisfied. She insists on knowing whether Masih was telling the truth about her brother’s murder by the ISIS. She has not given up hope yet, and she will not let the Government give up on her brother either.

-prepared by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    It is very disheartening to know this. All they can do is try to talk to people who have been in Iraq or have family members there or hope for the betterment and safe conditions of their relatives.

Next Story

The Great U.S. Government Shutdown

The Senate stands at an impasse while the nation collapses around it.

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen beyond a chain fence during the partial government shutdown in Washington, Jan. 8, 2019. VOA

By Vishvi Gupta

The partial shutdown of the Government of the United States has now entered Day 31. With as many as 800,000 federal employees furloughed, the entire nation remains in a turmoil due to the longest government shutdown in the history of United States.

The shutdown which started on December 22 of 2018, due to the disagreement of United States Congress and the President Of United States on ‘Border Security Funding’  has followed us well into 2019 and still has bleak chances of ending.

President Donald Trump remains undeterred in his conquest to get the funding for wall, no matter who pays for it, it seems. In a tweet and several different speeches, during the presidential election race of 2016, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump promised that “Mexico will pay for the wall”. However, he now demands almost $5Bn from the taxpayers of the country.

The country’s senate remains at an impasse and the only ones affected? The people.

Thousands of federal employees joined hands in protests and social media to share their stories of how exactly the shutdown is affecting them. Many employees have had to set up Gofundme donation websites to get by or to meet their basic needs. The shutdown led the hastag, ‘#ShutdownStories’ trend on twitter. Even students who rely on free or reduced fee meals at school are impacted. The lunch menus at schools are being revised so as to conserve food and funding.

As the shutdown drags on, it sees many businesses also take a hit. Mohammad Badah, a local falafel street vendors who saw a steep fall in his sales said,” Usually I do in this area, like 60-70 customers, so far I did like 19 customers today.” Badah can now afford to operate only one of his two trucks.

Also Read: U.S. Senate Stays Divided Over Trump’s Immigration Deal

Meanwhile, there is no budging on the democratic or republican side. President Donald Trump proposed a deal to the democrats in which he backs away from a simple demand for border funding and now offers a 3 year extension of the program for refugees and immigrants who came to America illegally as minors, also called ‘Dreamers.’ Democrats, however rejected this deal saying that Donald Trump’s proposal is “unacceptable” and said the president’s proposal was “not a good-faith effort.”

The Senate stands at an impasse while the nation collapses around it.