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Family Of Muslim Marine Recruit Speaks Out About His Death

Raheel Siddiqui (second from left), a Muslim Marine recruit who died in March 2016 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, stands with his father Masood (far right), mother Ghazala (far left) and sister Sidra (second from right). (Courtesy of the Siddiqui family)
Raheel Siddiqui (second from left), a Muslim Marine recruit who died in March 2016 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, stands with his father Masood (far right), mother Ghazala (far left) and sister Sidra (second from right). (Courtesy of the Siddiqui family)

The death of Raheel Siddiqui on March 18, 2016, focused a spotlight on alleged hazing in the U.S. Marine Corps. Siddiqui, who was a 20 year-old recruit, had been at boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, for just 11 days before he leapt three stories to his death, according to reported accounts from other recruits.

Many of those accounts also include allegations that Siddiqui was targeted and abused by his drill instructors in part because he was a Muslim. Since the event, 20 Marines have been relieved of duty and face punishment. The official autopsy ruled Siddiqui’s death a suicide, but his family disputes that claim.

Speaking with Here & Now‘s Robin Young, Masood Siddiqui, Raheel’s father, Ghazala Siddiqui, Raheel’s mother, Sidra Siddiqui, Raheel’s sister, and Shiraz Khan, the Siddiqui family’s attorney, say suicide does not fit with the young recruit’s character; they believe he died as a direct result of his abuse.

Official response from the U.S. Marine Corps:

“The Marine Corps is standing by the results reported by the South Carolina coroner who conducted the official autopsy and determined the cause of death. Any further questions on that decision will have to be sent to the coroner’s office. The Marine Corps’ condolences continue to be with the family during this difficult time.”

Interview Highlights

On their son’s character and aspirations

Ghazala: “I want everyone to know that my son was a very good son, very respectful, very responsible. He was very intelligent, smart student, top 10 in his class, and he would never have killed himself. He was mentally and physically ready to go, there was no reason for him [to commit suicide].”

Masood: “I want to say that right before he went into the Marines, Raheel appeared to very sincerely understand what needed to be done. I don’t believe [the suicide] because he was very strong, very intelligent … it appeared something wrong happened over there.”

Sidra: “We know it wasn’t suicide, it wasn’t in my brother’s character to do something like that. While my brother was being recruited by the Marines, they made my brother believe that he had a golden chance to do anything that he wanted to prosper in life. He went to college to be an engineer, but when the Marines came, they made him believe that, you know, they gave him this golden chance. And everything that we were told what they did to him, and I think it was really wrong, and he was a very strong person, very determined, I know that he didn’t kill himself.”

On Raheel’s self-disclosed suicidal thoughts

Sidra: “He said that because he knew that if you say that [you are suicidal], they let you go back home. He wasn’t actually going to do it.”

Shiraz Khan: “I want to start with, Raheel wasn’t weak, he was not a quitter, he was not unprepared for this. He wasn’t a liar. He was an American who happened to be a Muslim, and Raheel was a target before he even left Michigan.”

On the alleged religious discrimination Raheel faced

Shiraz Khan: “All of the accounts, all of the facts, everything that has come out clearly shows that there was a bias against Muslims, and that creates a problem because this is not a Muslim issue, this is an American issue. This was an American who died on American soil.”

On recovering Raheel’s body, and the suicide allegations

Masood: “When I saw the body, it had too much torture. Something happened, that’s what it looked like. Because according to the body, what I see, he did not jump by himself, and have this kind of damage to the body.”

Shiraz Khan: “The injuries are inconsistent to the fall. There’s damage to the body, both internal and external, for which they have no explanation.”

Sidra: “He was killed. I know he didn’t commit suicide, and I want those people to pay for it. The main people who are the reason for my brother not being here, I believe they should pay with their life, and everyone else who was involved, they should be charged and go to jail.”

Shiraz Khan: “The charges are insufficient at best. Realistically, there is more than enough evidence to bring assault, at the very least, as a charge. That’s in the USMC report, and that’s backed up by the evidence on the body, that’s backed up by the statements. But, it’s very clear to us now that that’s not the direction they want this to go.”


On the distinction between tough military training and Raheel’s death

Shiraz Khan: “What I’m saying is that suicide is not the only way that people die in the military. The evidence, the facts, the statements, the report, the findings, all lead to and all clearly show that all of that led to his death.”

On keeping Raheel’s room intact

Ghazala: “I have all of his certificates, and uniform, everything, and bed — everything I have.”

On keeping Raheel’s training uniform despite it’s painful connotation

Sidra: “We want that uniform there because that’s what he wanted to do. Like I said before, he wanted that title and he wanted to serve this country. He wanted to be a Marine.”

On Raheel’s choice to become a Marine

Ghazala: “Now, I realize, maybe my son made a big mistake. Why did he trust these people, why did he go there? Now I realize, because I lost everything, my only son. What can I do now? I trust this country … I told my son, ‘Don’t go, son,’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry, mom, people only get a three-month training and then I’ll come back.’”

On requests for evidence

Shiraz Khan: “We’ve sent out our questions, our requests for evidence, we’ve sent all that out to the Marines, the coroner, the pathologist. The problem is that, at this time, the Marine Corps has only given us about 20 of 240 pieces of evidence, evidence that they say supports their claim. They’re holding onto it, and that creates a problem, because if you want to make a claim, you’d better have the evidence to back it up.”

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