For months, Hakima Ramzi wondered where her son was. His father had taken him to a park in November of last year and never returned.
Thursday, Ramzi buried her son, 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, at a cemetery in south Atlanta.
“I am not worried about my son now. I was worried about where he was, who was caring for him, how he was being treated. At least now I know where he is,” she told CNN Friday.
“When I buried him, I felt that he’s now in my heart. He’s here [in Atlanta]. He’s next to me. I can go visit him.”
But now she wants justice for her young son’s death.
“My question to his father,” she said with tears in her eyes, “Why? He has to answer that. Was it worth it?”
On Friday, Siraj Wahhaj, 40, Abdul-Ghani’s father, and Jany Leveille, 35, were charged with child abuse resulting in the boy’s death, according to the criminal complaint.
The couple and three other adults have been in custody since authorities discovered 11 emaciated children on a filthy New Mexico compound, along with a cache of guns. The adults are all charged with child abuse and have pleaded not guilty.
Authorities found the remains of Abdul-Ghani at the compound’s property on the day that would have been his fourth birthday, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.
Abdul-Ghani suffered from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. He had seizures and needed constant care and medical attention, Ramzi said.
Wahhaj, a Muslim and the son of an imam in New York, said he wanted to stop giving his son medication and perform rituals to “cast demonic spirits” out of the boy’s body, New Mexico prosecutor John Lovelace said in a court hearing last week citing Ramzi.
“I am not going to rest until they get the justice they deserve,” she said, referring to her husband and the others possibly involved in his death.
More than 100 people crowded the Mosque of Islam Thursday in Atlanta. The funeral service was conducted by Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the boy’s paternal grandfather.
“He told me Abdul-Ghani won’t be coming home, but that’s God’s will. As much as I love him, Allah loves him more,” Ramzi said.
“I am blessed to have these people come to support me, and be behind me,” she said of all the attendees. “It’s nice to have that feeling.”
Originally from Morocco, Ramzi’s own family was not able to attend the funeral.
The young boy’s body was washed according to Islamic custom by his uncles, Mohammed Wahhaj and Mohammed Jihad.
Coincidentally, Imam Siraj Wahhaj’s wife, Jamella Jihad, recently wrote a book about the religious process of burial in Islam. It was published just a week before the funeral. “We had no idea we would have to use it in our own family so soon,” Jihad said.
The two agents from the Clayton County Police Department who investigated Abdul-Ghani’s disappearance also attended the funeral.
“Captain Stubbs and Captain Porter fought side-by-side with us,” Jihad said.
When she told them, at the funeral, that they were like family, she says they responded, “No. We are family.”
Ramzi and Jihad are now working to introduce legislation named after Abdul-Ghani, to protect other children from similar circumstances, in which estranged parents abduct their children.
“It’s not easy to lose a child,” Ramzi said. “There’s too many children who die. It’s very hard.”