KUALA LUMPUR - "Uncle, can you please take me back to Malaysia?"
That was the plea of seven-year-old Arif Azizul Raheem to Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin when he first arrived in Stockholm. It made the Deputy Foreign Minister determined to bring home the four children of Azizul Raheem Awalludin and Shalwati Nurshal, who are in custody in Sweden.
He finally managed to bring the children home yesterday - and the eldest child Aishah Azizul Raheem was glad to be home.
"We are just happy to be here, we don't know yet where we want to go after this," she said. For now, though, they will be staying with their relatives in Peringat in Kelantan.
Their parents had been arrested for smacking their son to make him perform prayers.
Aisyah, 14, and Arif, along with their brothers Ammar, 12, and Adam, 11, arrived at about 7am, accompanied by Hamzah and their aunt Norazila Mahzan.
Looking tired after the long flight, which included taking a connecting flight in Paris, the children shared tearful embraces with relatives waiting there before being whisked away in several cars parked outside the airport arrival hall.
Hamzah said the first thing he did when he arrived in Stockholm was to meet the children. "The youngest asked if he could return to Malaysia," he said.
"The boy asked me: 'Uncle, can I follow you back?' I knew then that I needed to pursue this matter and make sure the children came home."
When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak asked Arif why he wanted to be in Malaysia, the boy said he wanted to meet his cousin.
Aisyah thanked the Prime Minister for making it possible for them to return to Malaysia and be reunited with their family.
"When we touched down this morning, it felt like a dream. I'm thankful," she said.
Hamzah said the couple, whom he met in prison, had thanked the Prime Minister and Government for making it possible for their four children to return to Malaysia.
"Azizul and Shalwati also thanked Malaysians for their thoughts, prayers and concern for them and their children," he said.
The parents were in good spirits but were concerned about the well-being of their children, he added.
The children's aunt Shaleena Nurshal, who is tasked with taking care of the children, said they would be staying with her in Peringat until the matter was resolved.
The children left for Kelantan yesterday evening. "They are excited and cannot wait to reach Kota Baru," said a relative.