'Our son died in an honourable way'
THE father of a young man who left Ireland to fight against the regime in Syria told how his son died heroically attempting to rescue a fellow rebel lying wounded from gunfire.
The family of 22-year-old Hudhaifa Elsayed told how their "visionary", peaceloving son had joined rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he "wanted to try to change the world".
His father Abdel Basset Elsayed, a consultant surgeon, said the family learned of his loss earlier in the week after he was killed during a skirmish between rebels and forces loyal to Assad in the Idleb province near the Turkish border.
"One of the people in the group got injured and everybody in the group backed away to flee but he came back to help him and they both ended up dying," Mr Elsayed's older sister Somaia (24), an obstetrics trainee, recalled in their home outside Drogheda, Co Louth.
"We don't know where the body is," his father said, adding that, if possible, they would bring him to Egypt or to Ireland.
Mr Elsayed, a naturalised Irish citizen, was Egyptian-born but moved to Ireland in 2000 after his father took up a post as a surgeon in 1994.
He studied engineering at DCU before setting up his own lifecoaching and personal development training company.
Mr Elsayed left Ireland in late April, initially helping to educate youths in refugee camps in Turkey who had fled the fighting in Syria.
"Then he decided he wanted to go in and have a more active role at trying to get rid of this injustice," Somaia said. "He was idealistic in his views. He wanted to change the world."
Out of respect, his mother, Asmaa, told how he had phoned them to ask if he could go across the border. "We believe everyone has a time to leave this life.
"So we said, 'ok if this is your choice, you can go. We are sure nothing is going to harm you if it is not your fate'," she said.
"We heard about what happened to him, that he died in an honourable way. He was not thinking of himself and he was not afraid to save someone."
Members of the family gathered at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh, Dublin, to mark his passing, while many of his friends paid tribute to him on online forums.