The morning of Thursday, July 5, Recep Seran walked into the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and asked for permission to come to Boise, where he would bury his daughter.
By that time, a small army of diplomats, congressional staffers and charity workers had been at work on his behalf. They prepared Seran for an interview that would decide whether he could enter the United States. Aides to Idaho Sen. Jim Risch played a central role.
Risch’s staff handles a few requests every year for visas or passports from people — often U.S. citizens — in extraordinary circumstances. Rarely have they encountered a case as difficult as the one they faced Monday, July 2, two days after a knife-wielding attacker stormed through a Boise apartment complex, wounding six children and three adults.
One of the victims, 3-year-old Ruya Kadir, was Seran’s daughter. She was flown to a hospital in Salt Lake City with serious stab wounds. The International Rescue Committee in Boise contacted Risch’s office early Monday and asked for help getting Seran to the United States so he could see his daughter, said Kaylin Minton, a spokeswoman in Risch’s Washington, D.C., office.
That thrust Risch’s staff into a behind-the-scenes race to secure a visa for a man 5,000 miles away.
Risch’s staff members called contacts in the State Department to explain the situation. They left a message that morning with Risch himself, who was in Alaska for a congressional field hearing, to let him know what they were up to.
“In matters like this one that are time-sensitive, we sometimes have to use our best judgment,” Minton said. “Knowing that Ruya Kadir was in critical condition, there was no doubt in the senator’s mind that we needed to help her parents get to her bedside.”
The obstacles were daunting. Seran is not a U.S. citizen and lacked authorization to enter the United States. He had little money — a factor that makes immigration officers worry foreigners will overstay their visas. He doesn’t speak English.
Under normal circumstances, Minton said, a consulate officer probably would deny Seran’s visa.
The State Department emailed the consulate about 2:30 p.m. Eastern that Monday. It was 9:30 p.m. in Istanbul — well after business hours. Meanwhile, International Rescue Committee staffers in Turkey helped Seran through the visa application process, Minton said.
By the time consulate officers took up Risch’s request Tuesday morning, Ruya had died. Risch’s staff forwarded letters to the State Department from her doctor and another employee of the Salt Lake City hospital stating that the girl was dead and that, to their knowledge, Seran was her father.
Seran was several hours away from the nearest consulate in Istanbul, with no way to get there for an interview Tuesday.
The consulate was closed Wednesday for July 4. That meant Thursday was the soonest the father could interview for a visa.
Before Seran arrived for the interview, Risch’s team, the Rescue Committee, the State Department in Washington and the consulate’s staff helped prepare prerequisite documents and answer questions — a process that usually takes months.
Minton said she didn’t know what kind of visa Seran received, when it expires or who paid for his flight to Boise. The Rescue Committee’s Boise office did not respond to several requests for comment. A family friend declined say whether Seran is still in this country.
According to Muslim tradition, burial should occur as soon as possible after death. But Bifituu Kadir, Seran’s wife and Ruya’s mother, delayed the funeral so that Seran could see his daughter’s body. A memorial service followed the funeral on Saturday afternoon, July 7, before a crowd of hundreds in the grand ballroom of Downtown’s Boise Centre.
Timmy Kinner, the man accused of killing Ruya, is charged with first-degree murder and eight counts of aggravated battery, all felonies. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, in district court in Boise.