While Muslims around the world have condemned the actions and ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL), the South African community has to a large extent remained unscathed by the group’s presence. In recent months, however, South Africa’s role in the fight against ISIS has been called to the fore with the arrest of brothers, Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie.
Commonly referred to as the Thulsie twins, the 23 year old boys were arrested by the Hawks at Brandon-Lee’s home on July 9, 2016. The brothers face three counts of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act. The charges are related to alleged intent to bomb a Mission of the United States of America and Jewish institutions in South Africa. The boys are currently detained at the Johannesburg Central Prison.
Speaking to VOC, friend of the Thulsie family, Faried Domingo explains that after following the case unfold he had decided to do what he describes as his duty as a Muslim and assist the Thulsie where he is able to.
Given his involvement within the community, Domingo said the fact that the family’s financial situation leaves them at a disadvantage where they will be unable to both survive and assist in securing the release of the brothers.
“When it is a wealthier family then people are always around. So, we need to take a step forward as a community to assist the family financially and assisting them to and from court and the prison to visits the boys,” he stated.
The character of the twins
Domingo noted that he met the twins over two and a half years ago when the pair reverted to Islam.
He says that their mother was a Muslim, but over the years lost her connection with the religion, the boys in their later years subsequently began researching about Islam after connecting with Muslims.
“Previously they worked as DJ’s and made a lot of money, but then they realised that this was not the life for them and reverted to Islam.”
Following their reversion, Domingo says that the pair began attending regular Islamic classes after which they would visit Domingo’s home for Friday lunch.
He says that in his interaction with the boys, he found them to be “soft natured” and appeared to have strong family values.
“One brother studied Hifth (Qur’anic Studies), while the other worked for the family; his brother and the mum. And once the one completed his studies, the other was going to complete his studies while the other worked,” he said.
Domingo asserts that in the numerous discussions that he enjoyed with the twins over lunch, he and the pair discussed various topics, including ISIS.
Given the fact the most Muslims and Islamic scholars agree that the actions and doctrine of ISIS contradicts Islam, Domingo asserts that the twins agreed that the group is not an Islamic organization.
‘Officers did not follow procedure’
Domingo explains that while the Hawks claim that they confiscated a computer, neither of the boys in fact owned a computer.
He confirms that the authorities have also tabled as evidence a picture of the ISIS flag found on one the twins Facebook pages and a history log on one of the boy’s phones where he researched bombs.
“The only weapon that was found between the two boys was a knife; a little blade that is less than two inches. These boys do not have the financial means or connections to do anything operational,” Domingo continued.
Domingo adds that the confiscated photo, what subsequent to the twins arrest went viral on social media, is said to be paint ball paraphernalia.
“So, based on what was found, their attitude, and the fact that they have not been linked to any organization, we believe that the Hawks does not have a case against them,” Domingo said.
In light of recent reports of ISIS breaches within South Africa, which were made by US counterparts, Domingo asserts that the twins arrest is in response to pressure placed on the Hawks to make an arrest.
He says the crime unit was pressurized to find what he describes as a “Muslim scapegoat.”
“The sad part is that the boys have not been offered a bail hearing, which goes against the kid’s human rights,” Domingo added.
Reports about the boy’s intent to travel to Syria
Domingo confirmed that the twins had intention to travel to Syria two years ago, and were stopped at the airport by their sister, not authorities.
He says that their sister and extended family stopped the boys from leaving South Africa as they did not want the boys to leave the country.
Contrary to media assertions, Domingo asserts that the boy’s intentions to travel to Syria was to study and considered studying in both Syria and Turkey.
“If you meet these boys they have a zest for knowledge. They started in a little madrasa in Newclare, and then started reading – these boys have such a hunger to learn Islam and that I believe is their motivation to go to Syria or Turkey.”
Given the current socio-political climate within Syria and the time frame in which the twins decided to travel, Domingo asserts they may not have been aware of the dangers of travelling to the now conflict ridden region.
‘The case has taken a toll on the boys and the family’
Domingo asserts that those who personally know the brothers believe that the boys are innocent of the charges and given the nature of the charges, he says that the situation has taken a toll on the family, particularly their mother, Wasiela Thulsie and the Brandon-Lee’s 19 year old wife.
“You can see how the mother has aged more than 15 years in a short space of time. And they are totally overwhelmed by the people who have come forward to assist. There are so many older people who have engaged with the boys, and have taken a liking to them.”
He further notes that the case has expectedly taken a toll on the twins, describing them as being “down”, but affirmed that the pair is continuing to support each other.
“Week by week, you can see them support each other; one week the one brother is weak and depressed, and the next the one supports the other. There is a true sense of kinship.”
Domingo says that as far he knows, the boys have not been abused or victimized within prison.
In an attempt to assist with securing bail for the twins and to assist their family financially, Domingo says that community members have rallied together and will be selling boerewors rolls this Saturday.
If you wish to assist in raising funds for the twins, contact Domingo on: 0833253134