- Several women from Alabama, Canada, and the UK who fled their homes to join ISIS have asked to return.
- The women moved to Syria in hopes of becoming so-called ISIS brides – women married to jihadi fighters whose goal is to raise a new generation of ISIS-supporting children.
- All three women are living in the same Syrian refugee camp, having fled ISIS, and are now asking to come home.
ISIS brides who fled their home countries for Syria are asking to come home, saying they want to live in safer environments.
Two women from Alabama and Alberta, Canada, came forward after British teenager Shamima Begum asked to return to London before giving birth to her son last week.
The women moved to Syria in recent years to become so-called ISIS brides, women married to jihadi fighters whose goal is to raise a new generation of ISIS-supporting children.
Begum, 19, fled ISIS just weeks ago, four years after leaving her home in London to join the extremist group alongside three classmates.
Hoda Muthana, from Alabama, then came forward to ask for forgiveness in hopes of returning to the US.
On Sunday, a woman only identified as Amy spoke to CTV about moving to Syria from Canada with her ISIS-supporting husband, and her desire to return home to Alberta.
Here is each woman’s story.
Shamima Begum fled London for Syria when she was 15 years old.
Shamima Begum and her classmates Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana fled East London in February 2015 to join classmate Sharmeena Begum in Syria, where they were all married off to non-British ISIS fighters, according to The Times of London.
Shamima Begum married a Dutch ISIS fighter named Yago Riedijk. They had two children together during their time in the so-called caliphate, but both children died due to illness.
Sultana is now believed to be dead, Sharmeena Begum and Abase are missing, Riedijk has turned himself in to authorities, and Shamima Begum is asking to return to London.
Begum, now 19, gave birth to a third child last week and is living in the al-Hawl Syrian refugee camp in northeast Syria, which holds about 39,000 people.
Begum told The Times of London she wants to return to the UK to protect her newborn son and because she believed ISIS “might not survive after all.”
UK officials have said that Begum might not be able to return, and if she does, she could be prosecuted.
Hoda Muthana urged people to drive pick-up trucks into crowds on Veterans Day.
Hoda Muthana left her home in Alabama to join ISIS in Syria in November 2014, when she was 19 years old.
She was radicalized online, according to a 2015 BuzzFeed report, and said a phone given to her by her father allowed her access to conservative Islamic lectures online.
Muthana then started a popular Twitter account, where she made violent calls to action from Syria.
One tweet read: “Go on drive bys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them.”
She has had three ISIS-connected husbands since arriving in Syria, according to The Guardian.
First she married Australian jihadi Suhan Rahman, who was killed in March 2015. She then married a Tunisian ISIS member, who fathered her son before being killed in Mosul. In 2018, she married a Syrian fighter.
Muthana was captured by Kurdish fighters in January 2019 and is now living in the al-Hawl refugee camp.
She told The Guardian that she wants to return to the US and said she was “brainwashed” and regrets her actions.
“We were basically in the time of ignorance […] and then became jihadi, if you like to describe it that way. I thought I was doing things correctly for the sake of God,” she said. “I look back now and I think I was very arrogant. Now I’m worried about my son’s future. In the end I didn’t have many friends left, because the more I talked about the oppression of ISIS the more I lost friends.”
Amy fled Canada with her ISIS-supporting husband. Once in Syria, he was killed.
A pregnant woman from Alberta, Canada, was one of four Canadian ISIS brides who spoke to CTV from the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria.
Identified only as Amy, the 34-year-old woman said she wanted to return to Canada.
Amy said she had converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man in Canada, and they moved to Syria with their two sons after her husband “started learning about the religion.”
Her husband was killed, and Amy then married a Bosnian man. The Bosnian man was killed three months later, and now Amy is pregnant with his child and living in the refugee camp.
She said she wants to return to Canada so her sons can get a “proper education.”
“I think I should be allowed to go home,” Amy told CTV. “I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I didn’t kill nobody. I didn’t do any harm to anybody.”
Two French women who fled to Syria to join ISIS are now trying to return.
Two French women who have not revealed their identities told AFP that they have fled ISIS and want to return to France.
They were picked up by US-backed forces and now live in the al-Hawl refugee camp, but France is hesitating to welcome them back.
One of the women is 29 years old and from the Lyon region of France.
The other is in her 30s and has three children. She said that she, her husband, and children fled ISIS earlier this month.
“We didn’t agree,” with ISIS ideologies, she said. “But we couldn’t say anything.”
The other woman paid a smuggler $US50 so she and her two young boys could escape the ISIS stronghold.
“The ISIS fighters scared us,” she told AFP. “They’d say, ‘We’ll slit your throats, we’ll rape you.'”
It remains unclear when they fled France for Syria or how long they were with ISIS, but the women said they lived quiet lives and their husbands had civilian jobs.
The younger woman said if she returns to France, she wants to be able to practice Islam and stay with her children.
“They will rip our kids away from us, put them in homes and foster families,” one of the women said. “They will be separated from each other and grow up (with values) against the education we want to give them.”
They said they hope they will be judged fairly if they are put on trial.
“I hope we’ll be judged fairly case by case – not for everything the group did,” one of the women said.
Kimberly Gwen Polman studied legal administration in Canada before joining ISIS.
Kimberly Polman, a 46-year-old who possesses dual US and Canadian citizenship, told The New York Times that she regrets moving to Syria.
The mother-of-three told The Times she had converted to Islam from the Reformed Mennonite religion she was raised in, and spent hours on social media learning about Syria.
In 2015, she started corresponding with a Syrian man and was told her that her nursing skills could be useful in the growing caliphate.
That summer, she told her sister she was leaving on a trip to Austria. Her family later learned she had actually joined ISIS.
Polman, who later married the Syrian man she corresponded with online, had used her American passport to fly from Vancouver to Istanbul, where she was then smuggled into Syria, the Times reported.
Polman told The Times she wasn’t interested in the violent crimes ISIS participated in, and didn’t know what to believe was real.
“These are videos on YouTube,” she said. “What’s real? What’s not real?”
A year after her arrival, Polman tried to escape ISIS but was caught and imprisoned in a jail cell in Raqqa, where she said she was raped and repeatedly interrogated by ISIS fighters.
Once out of prison, Polman met Hoda Muthana and they agreed to both flee, separately, in January.
Polman fled in mid-January and surrendered to American troops. She’s now living in the al-Hawl refugee camp.
“How do you go from burning a passport to crying yourself to sleep because you have so much deep regret? How do you do that?” Polman asked. “How do you show people that?”
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