Penticton city councillor Tarik Sayeed was a man of two worlds on Canada Day.
While surrounded by the smiles, laughing children and the celebration of the nation in which he currently lives, he was informed via a text from his brother-in-law of the nine gunmen who led a brutal attack leaving 28 dead, within a kilometre of his parents’ home.
“I was celebrating Canada Day with everyone and it was happening at the same time over there,” Sayeed said.
“So it was… do I celebrate here? Do I mourn for my friends and family there? It was a bit difficult, but you make the best out of it.”
Sayeed hails from Bangladesh, living within a kilometre of the attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the Gulshan area of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on July 1.
His brother-in-law was at a nearby restaurant when the gunmen began taking hostages, the entire city had shut down, leaving him on lockdown for about eight hours.
“He was texting me back and forth as to what was going on,” Sayeed said.
“It was (tense) I was worried for him because at that moment, if something happens, what are the chances they would come take over another restaurant? So we never knew what was going to happen.”
The six individuals involved in the attack were killed after authorities ended the 11-hour siege involving hostages in the early hours July 2.
“Growing up on both sides of the world, I do feel this instance had nothing to do with religion itself, but it has everything to do with the mental instability of these individuals,” Sayeed said.
Sayeed was surprised to hear the young men, who have not been named by authorities, were attendees of an English-medium private school. He said the Holey Artisan Bakery is generally an area where expatriates gather.
“That’s quite shocking for all of us,” Sayeed said.
He does not know any victims directly involved in the attack, but friends of friends were killed and he is continually communicating back and forth.
“Right now we’re just taking a break, but every day different stories come by,” Sayeed said.
He said the area is very welcoming to guests, with many expatriates living the area.
“Our culture is the hospitality we give to the international villagers, they’re treated like kings and queens,” Sayeed said. “So from there, this happening is just a day-and-night difference.”
He visits the area twice a year and helped set in motion an Okanagan Rotary Club project in 2015 to bring the twin village Rajapur-Fultoli water infrastructure, sports equipment, cattle and irrigations systems. He and some Rotary members are scheduled to check in on the project in December.