KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Last August, 3-year-old Elaph Hasan Qureini and 1-year-old Makeen Hasan Qureini died in an accidental drowning. A year later, their father, Hasan Qureini, is speaking out against the cemetery his children are buried in.
“You cannot have my kids inside here hostage,” Qureini said. “I want to be able to come in and visit.”
After the death of their two children, Qureini said he and his wife began visiting the Mid-America Muslim Cemetery in southeast Kansas City five days out of the week to pray and grieve. The Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City maintains the cemetery.
Qureini, 62, said the cemetery’s limited hours of operation are creating barriers for families seeking space to heal.
“The thing is, they close that gate during the weekdays and they lock it around 5 o’clock,” he said. “Some people have jobs that finish at 5 o’clock, so they lose the chance of visiting.”
He said management began locking the gates to the cemetery after they discovered lawn care equipment missing from inside the utility shed. But Qureini told FOX4 the thieves have come back numerous times, so padlocking the gates has not resolved the problem.
“What’s happening here is that door and that fence is keeping the good people from visiting,” Qureini said. “The thieves, they still come in and steal.”
The manager told FOX4 Problem Solvers the cemetery maintains hundreds of gravesites, and the majority of people don’t mind the cemetery schedule because even though the gate is locked, there is a door visitors can use to enter.
But the door is also gated and blocked off by the cemetery’s sign, meaning anyone who is disabled or too big to squeeze past the sign does not have access.
“Some people are older than me, some people have handicap issues and they don’t (visit) because the gate is closed,” Qureini said.
Qureini said the visiting schedule is only half of the concern. He said visitors are asked to park illegally on the street, forced to walk a quarter mile uphill to the gravesites, and put in unsafe driving situations while exiting the cemetery.
“If you park out there, it’s steep up the hill,” he said. “You’re blocking the pedestrian way, so if anyone’s walking that way, they actually have to walk around the car, endangering somebody’s life.”
He said backing out of the cemetery is dangerous because the exit feeds into a four-lane road with a speed limit of 40 mph.
“The speed limit there is 40 and, you know, everybody drives 43 or 44,” he said. “It’s pretty dangerous.”
Qureini said one employee even admitted to getting into a crash at the entrance of the cemetery, specifically while trying to back out on a busy road.
FOX4 spoke with other families who said they have family members that use a wheelchair, making it impossible for them to enter the cemetery. One woman told Problem Solvers her father was unable to visit his brother and wife throughout the last few years of his life, and died before he was ever able to properly grieve.
“My wife is pregnant,” Qureini said. “Let’s put it this way, she cannot walk, pulling a kid a quarter mile one way and a quarter mile back.”
“I mean, come on, it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is wrong.”
Management said there’s a master plan in the works to improve the cemetery, but that could take two years.
In the meantime, Qureini said he continues to offer management suggestions to which he receives “no response,” such as a coded padlock that only grieving families know the code to, or even GPS trackers to place on the targeted equipment.
“Expensive equipment is worth it to put a little, tiny device in there because if the thief comes and steals, then he’s going to come back again and again and again,” he said.