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Nadia’s daughter was kidnapped: ‘I won’t give up, my daughter belongs here’

On the 29th of September 2016, the two-year-old toddler Insyia was abducted from her grandmother’s home in Amsterdam commissioned by her Indian father Shehzad Hermani. Despite the pressure of the ministry, India does not extradite the girl. Her Dutch mother Nadia is devastated but keeps on fighting.

With a serious look on her face, Nadia (35) says: ‘Many people think: she isn’t showing her emotions so she must be crazy. Believe me: this whole situation is driving me insane. I am devastated. But this isn’t about me, it’s about my daughter Insiya. I choose to ignore my own emotions, because when I break down, I know I will never get her back home.

Nadia, obviously upset, continues: ‘In the past year, we haven’t made any progress. In the Netherlands, it seems to be easy enough for someone to kidnap a person to a country that has a difficult diplomatic relationship with The Netherlands. And then they tell the parent who stayed behind: ‘’Please be patient, we are conducting silent diplomacy.’’ But they are talking about a child; my own child! I always obeyed the rules. I’ve been in court and made sure that I was legally justified. I often ask myself: why did I do this? It didn’t make any difference. I’m extremely angry and disappointed, but most of all: shocked.

Before the 29th of September 2016

‘I’m a true inhabitant of Amsterdam’ Nadia says. She was born in Amsterdam in 1982. Her parents moved from Asia to The Netherlands five years before she was born, hoping for a better life. Nadia’s parents had three children and have always stimulated them to work hard in school. ‘I’m the middle child and I’ve always been very ambitious, even as a child. Studying was easy for me and my dream at the time was to join the United Nations to become the female version of Kofi Annan.’

After her graduation, she took a gap year and travelled through Asia and Australia. ‘In Asia, I noticed that I was ‘’too western’’, I didn’t fit in the Asian culture anymore. Back in The Netherlands, she started studying psychology and successfully graduated. During her studies, Nadia did voluntary work for the youth branch of a political party and at cultural events. In 2005 she met the Indian businessman Shehzad Hemani at the International Indian Film Academy Award Festival in Amsterdam. ‘It wasn’t love at first sight but he kept sending me messages. He frequently visited Europe because of business purposes and invited me multiple times to drink a cup of coffee with him. In 2010 he asked me if I wanted to be in a relationship with him. Initially, I said no, but he kept on being very attentive. I eventually fell in love with him.’

In 2011 Nadia and Shehzad got married in India. The wedding lasted three days and hundreds of guests were present. During the wedding, Nadia wore four different wedding dresses. ‘It had to be larger than life. The wedding party was a giant network session. I only had to be beautiful and I wasn’t allowed to open my mouth. I once said that I also had my own opinion but that wasn’t allowed. Shehzad told everybody: ‘’I import my cars from Germany, my interior is inspired by Italian style and my wife is a European.’’ ‘I was just a status symbol.’ After their wedding, Nadia went back to The Netherlands because she didn’t want to live in India. Shehzad located his headquarters in London so that they could be together more frequently.

He actually became more and more distant. I really wanted to talk with him but he always replied in the same way: ‘’Why are you moaning all the time?’’ One day he told me that he had gone bankrupt and said that it was the reason for his behaviour. I showed my understanding and told him that he did not have to be afraid of me leaving him. He never told me that he secretly transferred millions to foreign banks.’ Their relationship became more and more unhealthy. Nadia became emotionally dependant on Shehzad and yearned for his love. ‘While I longed for his love, he continuously disparaged me. Whenever we had to go somewhere I dressed up pretty. After dressing up he then said ‘’Are you really wearing that? Nevermind, I will go on my own.’’ It felt like he wanted to make me feel guilty.’

Nadia travelled between The Netherlands, Dubai and India. ‘When something started to bother him he said: ‘’Here’s your flight ticket, go home.’’ A couple of times I told him: ‘’It’s over, send me the divorce papers.’’ But he would then come back telling me that he was sorry and promising me that the situation would become better. I kept on believing in this fairy tale because I don’t give up easily.’

Although not planned, Nadia got pregnant in 2013. She was happy but Shehzad was shocked. ‘During my pregnancy I got sick. He became annoyed and said ‘’Why don’t you terminate your pregnancy if you can’t handle it?’’ I felt so lonely but was too ashamed to talk about it with someone. How do you tell someone that your marriage is a nightmare, but still decide to stay with your husband?’ The birth of Insiya went well. Shehzad waited in the hallway when she was giving birth. Nadia proudly showed him their daughter. ‘The nurse wanted to give Insiya to him but he said: ‘’Clean her off first!’’ I was shocked and barely noticed any emotion on his face.

Six weeks later Nadia went to India together with Shehzad and Insiya, who had received a Dutch passport. They travelled separately because Shehzad didn’t want to fly with a crying baby. When Nadia arrived in Mumbai, she had to wait in the car while her husband showed their baby to his parents. ‘Horrible. I cried a lot. But his mother didn’t like me, she thought I was too outspoken. It all went on for two years. He never changed Insiya’s diapers and never even fed her. However, I was still happy when he came to Amsterdam, but there was no intimacy. For me, this was a problem. ‘Have you fallen in love with someone else?’’ I asked, but he denied.’ The arguments got worse over time. ‘There was this one time I didn’t pick up my phone for one hour. When I got back home he took my phone en placed it under the running water stream of the faucet. ‘’I hope this is teaching you a lesson,’’ he told me while hitting me. He then locked me up for a couple of days. Shehzad told his friends that I was a crazy bitch who wanted his money and didn’t do anything all day long. And to me he would only say how stupid he thought his friends were. One of them was a cocaine-addict, another one corrupt and the third one cheated on his wife. That’s how he kept everyone and everything separated.’

After a failed holiday in Dubai, April 2015, Shehzad decided to stop contacting Nadia. She then decided to carry on with the divorce. ‘He was furious and contacted almost everyone through social media: my father, friends, and some old colleagues. He would tell everyone only negative things about me. Shortly after that, I received the following text message: ‘’The games begin now.’’ He was ready to destroy my life. That’s exactly what he has been doing for over the past two and a half years. And he is willing to continue until I’m completely broken.’ Nadia shows some text messages from him on her phone: obscene pictures with added phrases such as ‘slut’, ‘whore’ and ‘gold digger’. ‘He sends these texts to everyone.’

But all of the above falls short of the most terrible thing that happened to her: the abduction of her daughter. It all started with messages from Shehzad in which he stated he exactly knew where she had been. Nadia noticed that she was followed. A car mechanic discovered GPS-trackers inside her car. After Nadia had reported the situation at the police station, Shehzad started to threaten her more often. ‘He roughly gave me two options: you come back or commit suicide.’ The police gave her an aware-system; she only had to push a button and the police would immediately come into action. One police investigator was fulltime engaged with the case. This didn’t frighten Shehzad: he told Nadia that he would take her daughter away. He didn’t want to know anything about the contract arrangement a Dutch judge had awarded. He started judicial procedures on his own, but when this didn’t work out the way he wanted he contacted ‘shady people’ and told them to abduct Insiya. In January 2016 a first attempt to abduct Insiya was aborted. The second attempt in April 2016 was aborted as well. ‘The police arrested some former British commands and former Israeli elite-soldiers. But after a judicial mistake had been made, they were released. I knew Shehzad would never give up. He said so himself. He even let me know how he wanted to kidnap Insiya: he wasn’t going to fly from Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport) but from the airport in Brussels or somewhere in Germany.’ But then it became scarily quiet. The police investigator said: ‘I think he now realises his plans aren’t working.’ Nadia: ‘I thought: If he says so…’

Seven days later, Insiya was abducted from her grandmother’s home. Nadia wasn’t there when it happened. Three men broke into the house and stated that they had an order from the Indian embassy. Two of them took the screaming Insiya and ran off to a car. A third man molested Nadia’s mother but was caught by bystanders on the street. ‘He used a taser and my mother was covered in bruises. He is still in detention but he is keeping his mouth shut.’ After Nadia had been informed about the situation, she immediately warned the police that the abductors were on their way to Germany. ‘I had a feeling they were not taking it all too seriously. They must’ve thought: we’d better leave the hysterical mother alone. An Amber Alert was sent out but I knew there was not much time before they took her out of Europe.’ A couple of days later Insiya was already in India. At that moment, Nadia’s fight started.

After the 29th of September 2016

Since the abduction of Insiya, Nadia has tried everything to get her daughter back. She used social media (she is still very active on social media with the hashtag #bringinsiyaback), contacted the popular website Humans of Amsterdam and gave many public interviews about the situation. Articles were shared a thousand times. She hated the fact that her personal life became public but didn’t seem to have another choice. She also contacted prominent people from India; organised a silent march on the 29th of September 2017; talked to various government leaders and wrote to sixteen different companies who have business affairs with India. In addition to all of the above, her lawyer Peter Plasman and crime reporter John van den Heuvel are closely involved in the case and try their best to help Nadia. ‘In October 2016, John went to India and talked with witnesses. He found out that Insiya was locked up in a flat where she was crying all day long. Even John is surprised about the way Insiya was taken and how nothing has helped yet.’

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders listened to Nadia’s story and offered her a personal contact person from the ministry. During his visit to India, Bert Koenders raised awareness for the case and even the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put pressure on India. ‘There have been many conversations but did those conversations help? No. It’s about a Dutch citizen that has been abducted from her own country! Of course, financial interests are playing an important role but does Insiya have to be a victim of those financial interests? The Dutch government has to put more pressure on India and on Shehzad. Not only political and financial pressure. Society needs to know about this scandal. For example, every Dutch citizen knows about the MH17 disaster.’

In the meantime, Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant against Shehzad. Because of this arrest warrant, Shehzad can’t leave India. ‘That seriously affects him because he goes crazy when he has to stay in Mumbai for a couple of weeks. However, he seems to have a lot of powerful friends who are helping him.’ Nadia never stops searching for solutions and keeps track of everything. She doesn’t know what relaxation is anymore because she simply doesn’t have the time to relax. ‘I’ve been sleeping and eating poorly for the past year. I’ve already lost many kilos. I don’t even know how I’m still coping with all of this. When Insiya comes back, it will be most likely that I break down. But I’m more concerned about her. She has been taken away from her own mother while still being in the bonding phase with her mom. She will definitely be left with psychological damage – that’s what I’m most concerned about.’

She realises that Shehzad is capable of doing almost everything. ‘I know that it’s possible that I end up in an accident but the wish of getting my daughter back is bigger than my fears.’ Shehzad once promised Nadia that she could see Insiya and speak to her on her third birthday through Facetime on the 6th of March. His Dutch lawyer, Gerard Spong, organised this. Nadia waited all day long but nothing happened. ‘He must’ve told her that I was dead or didn’t want to see her. Exactly a year after she was taken away from me, Shehzad posted a picture of them together on Twitter. How sadistic!’ Nadia still hopes Insiya will come back to her one day. ‘She will come back; I just know that she will. All those people who are showing their compassion are giving me the strength to continue this fight. They feel my pain and pray for me. I try to thank all of them. Their support keeps me going. But also because giving up is not an option: my child isn’t home yet.’ And so Nadia keeps on fighting to get Insiya back home.

Why isn’t Insiya back yet?

In 2016, 251 children were abducted from and to The Netherlands. ‘We hardly ever see a violent abduction like Insiya’s.’ says Mister Coşkun Çörüz, head of the Centre of International Child Abduction. India hasn’t signed the Hague Child abduction convention. That’s what makes this case so complicated. ‘We can’t address India on legal terms, therefore the parent is dependent on a diplomatic solution or relies on legal opions in the country the child has been abducted to. Most of the time these cases don’t thrive on publicity. That’s why these cases are treated silently.’ He knows it takes a lot of patience. Crime reporter John van den Heuvel also underlines this. He pays attention to the case in his television programme ‘Kidnapped’. ‘Currently, I can’t do more than just pay attention to this case and keep contacting the authorities.’ Both Çörüz and Van den Heuvel stay optimistic. ‘It’s hard,’ says Çörüz. ‘But we know it’s possible for Insiya to come back.’ Van den Heuvel was involved in various other abduction cases that were eventually solved. ‘I believe that this case will be solved as well. I hope the father understands he is taking away a part of Insiya’s youth.’

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