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In a handout photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, July 27, 2014. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via The New York Times)

Custody woes

Sister of San Bernardino shooter struggles to adopt daughter orphaned after attack

November 28, 2016

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California last year, before they were shot and killed by police. They also left behind an infant daughter, who was placed immediately in foster care under San Bernardino County child protective services. According to a feature in The Washington Post, Saira Kahn, the sister of Farook, has been trying unsuccessfully to obtain custody of the baby since that horrible day in December 2015.

Khan and her husband, Farhan, have been cleared by the FBI of having any prior knowledge of the attack. But the past year has been a challenging one for them. Friends and extended family have cut ties. Their petition to adopt Farook’s baby is stalled. The girl is now allowed to visit Khan’s home, but for months following the shooting, Khan was only permitted to see her niece during one-hour slots at a child-care office. In the early days after the shooting last December, Khan spoke out expressing a desire to adopt the child, just six months old at the time. “At least she’ll have a stable upbringing” Khan said last year. “We want her to enjoy her innocence.”

Khan and her husband were then prohibited from seeing the baby for two months after the deadly attack. When Khan was first reunited with the baby after the shooting, she barely recognized her. “She thought the baby’s arms and legs had atrophied,” The Post reports. “The girl didn’t smile much, and she didn’t want to interact … She had been given new caretakers through foster care. A new house. New bottles filled with formula. New siblings in her foster-care home. New language, because her foster family spoke English and not Urdu. New security concerns, which meant that for a short time the girl had been called by an alias and disguised as a boy.

“Saira had been told that at one point her niece had stopped gaining weight, so she had spent a few days in the hospital. Doctors had run a series of tests before concluding that the problem was essentially nutrition and stress.”

Khan believes that her niece, whom she breastfed as an infant, is happy at her house, playing with her cousins. But until the county decides on Khan’s custody case, there is little she can do but wait. “We are a good family,” she told the Post. “We didn’t know anything.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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