They can never go home.
Misinformation and propaganda are the fuel of the jihadist extremist militant group, ISIS. They create fear and headlines, hate and despair. They make roaring, brave lions out of stray, skinny cats. And they make young women, even teenagers, leave their homes, their families and countries and fight for a cause they’ve only experienced through Snapchat, Facebook posts and Twitter words.
An estimated 4,500 Westerners have left their countries to fight for the Islamic State and according to The Washington Post, there are an “unprecedented number of radicalized women sneaking across borders”. The average age for female converts is 21.
Watch the news clip below from when teenager Samra Kesinovic first left Austria to join ISIS. Post continues after video.
“They often appear to be typical teenagers,” Brigitte Lebans Nacos, a political science professor at Columbia University told the Washington Post. “They ask about hair dryers. They’re looking for romance. They’re fans of ISIS, like others are fans of pop stars.”
The Guardian reports that In Britain alone, out of the roughly 700 people who have travelled to Syria to fight for ISIS, 100 are women or girls and even though these recruits became radicalised for different reasons, all tend to centre around issues of identity (who am I in a Western culture as a Muslim?); faith (these are smart women or girls who are ideological and service to God beats everyone else); curiosity (social media has seen them strike up relationships online); and freedom (they feel they have less freedom in their home country than they would in Syria).
Each woman or teen’s story of radicalisation is different. We know the names of some, but there are three converts from the past year whose story of life before ISIS and life inside the extremist militant group reveal the reality of converting to ISIS.
Hasna Ait Boulahcen. She was originally dubbed ISIS’s first suicide bomber when heavily armed French police stormed the hideout of her cousin, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected organizer of the Paris attacks that killed 130 people. French police determined later that the 26-year-old hadn’t caused the explosion.
In a video shot outside the St-Denis apartment during a two-hour siege, a policeman can be heard asking, “Where’s your friend?” To which a woman’s voice screams: “He’s not my friend,” moments before gunfire and an explosion in which she was killed along with her cousin, Abaaoud.