17-year-old Londoner Silhan Ozcelik boarded a train to Europe with a male friend in October, never to see her family again. Now, authorities suspect that Ozcelik, who is Kurdish, is on her way to Syria to fight against the terrorists of the Islamic State.
According to the UK Independent, Ozcelik’s family suspects that she has left them behind to engage in the Syrian Civil War, to fight against Islamic State terrorists. The head of the Kurdish Community Association in her native Haringey told the press that she was last seen in Belgium and that many believe she would have sacrificed it all to join Kurdish fighters against ISIS. “She is a reserved person but very political and educated and took part in a demonstration in Westminster… she is a very good strong person and we are hoping she is safe and well,” he said.
The Daily Mail reports that a man has been arrested for helping Ozcelik leave the country, though no other information on the matter was provided.
If it is confirmed that she left for Syria, she would be the first British citizen to have joined the battlefield in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State. While the UK, the Netherlands, and other Western nations have lost a significant number of teenage girls to the Syrian Civil War, most have left to join the Islamic State and marry jihadists.
Authorities believe that Ozcelik may have two potential destinations in mind: Kobani, the troubled town on the border of Turkey in which ISIS fighters and Kurdish forces have been doing battle for weeks, or northern Iraq, where Kurdistan’s YPJ, the Women’s Protection Unit, are active. It is also unknown whether she would be looking to engage in battle or humanitarian efforts.
Her family has dismissed reports that Ozcelik may be looking to engage in battle. Outraged, her brother, Engin, told the press, “We are 100 percent sure she has gone away to carry out humanitarian and charity work and not to become a fighter against ISIS.” Her brother added that the idea of Ozcelik engaging in battle has created an image of her “that is wrong and upsetting.”
Ozcelik’s disappearance follows reports of a number of British men who have also left their home countries to fight for the Islamic State. Some released a statement this week from the troubled region, confirming that they are volunteers and not mercenaries, fighting because they believe in the cause of destroying the Islamic State group.