A British schoolgirl who ran away to Turkey may have been groomed to be a jihadi bride through a Twitter-based jihadi dating service, according to counter terrorism officers involved in her case. The ‘Jihad Matchmaker’ account urges people to make contact to be paired up with a jihadi fighting in Syria, but insists it is not affiliated to ISIS. Although Twitter has promised to remove all extremist accounts, Breitbart London was able to access it today.
Breitbart London first reported on the case of Yursa Hussien on Monday, when news broke that the 15 year old had absconded from this country after meeting up with an unnamed 17 year old girl in Heathrow. The two are known to have flown to Turkey together, and are believed to be planning to travel on to Syria to wed jihadi fighters. The girl’s family, who had no idea that she had been radicalised, are said to be devastated.
It is not thought that Yusra took any money from friends or family before her departure, leading to speculation that whoever recruited her may have arranged and paid for her travel.
As Yusra’s mother yesterday made an emotional plea for her return, the Mirror was told by counter-terrorism officers that Yusra may have contacted the Jihad Matchmaker Twitter account weeks ago and been seduced by those running it into running away.
The source also revealed that hundreds of British women have sent marriage proposals to Islamic militants fighting with ISIS. They said that one European fighter had been “bombarded” with proposals from women worldwide.
The account, which was set up a little over a month ago, urges girls to get in touch to be paired up with an Islamic fighter for a strict halal wedding. One typical tweet reads “Want to marry a mujahid in Syria? Then DM in your age, languages and marital status today. Allah is most generous!” Another, posted a day later says “Keep it halal and get married: Picture all the little mujahideen running around.. Prophet s.w would be proud :)”
The account holder has been bombarded with criticism from other Twitter users accusing it of promoting terrorism. As a result, whoever runs it has made it clear that the twitter account is not part of ISIS, at one point tweeting in capitals “JIHADMATCHMAKER IS NOT A PART OF OR AFFILIATED TO ISIS.”
It appears to be British run, and plays on the 1939 British government slogan ‘Keep calm and carry on’ style text for its avatar, which features a blue background and white text reading “Keep it Halal and Get Married”.
Yesterday Yusra’s mother Safiya broke down in tears at a press conference, where she pleaded ” Yusra I am your mum … I love you. Come back, please, please, please. We miss you – please come back. I love you so much. All your brothers and your sister miss you so much. The house is not the same since when you left.”
Yusra’s aunt Sucdi highlighted that reports of Yusra being radicalised are, at this stage, still mere speculation as the two girls have not been in contact with anyone in Britain since they boarded their flight. Speaking at the press conference, Sucdi said “There have been many assumptions and speculations claiming that Yusra is travelling to Syria, that she may be an extremist, or that she is planning to become a jihadist bride – all of which has not yet been proved with any concrete evidence.”
She also described Yusra’s bubbly personality and issued a further plea for Yusra to return, saying “As every day passes we become more and more concerned about her safety and welfare.
“Yusra is a very young bright bubbly girl who is loved by not only her family but her peers, teachers and her community. She’s a typical teenager – she loves to play table tennis and to ride her bike and she used to run with her brother, who is the next Mo Farah.
“The pain that we as parents feel at not knowing her safety is very distressing and something we believe every parent can relate to.
“Yusra, we are missing you, if you are watching this please contact us, you are not in trouble and we are not angry with you. We just want you back home.”
When pressed to say whether Yusra had run away to join ISIS, Sucdi responded “”We have a teenage girl missing. We don’t know where she is, that’s the point here. We don’t know whether she is safe or not – we have no clues. We aren’t here to talk about ISIS. We are here to talk about Yusra, a missing 15-year-old girl.”
She also questioned how two teenagers were allowed to board a plane on a school day without any questions being asked: “That is something our Government and the security services need to work on. A child travelling on a school day, that is something that needs to be looked at. Not just for Yusra, but so they can prevent it in future as well.”
Local councillor Afzal Shah, who was with the family at their home yesterday, told the Daily Mail “The family have not been able to make contact with Yusra. The understanding I have is that the radicalisation is self-radicalisation as opposed to any institution. There are so many forums and chatrooms on the internet that it’s easy to be led astray. I don’t know how she got to that stage but she was radicalised at that stage.”
The Home Office says it has shut down 30,000 terrorist linked sites online in the last nine months – more than the total closed down in the previous four years. Some attempts have been made in the US to use websites to promote a counter-radicalisation message, but that has been criticised by others in the field.
Dr Erin Saltman, senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation told Breitbart London “Right now if you go online it seems like the extremist voice is much more loud and available from many angles. Online there are a range of extremist sympathisers, foreign fighters, alternative media outlets, extremist preachers and other voices that create a seemingly coherent voice. To counter that online presence we need an equally diverse range of voices online.
“Censoring and filtering content has been proven ineffective in numerous ways, not least because censored material reappears just as quickly and filtering ‘extremist’ content is highly questionable since we don’t have a clear definition for what we mean by ‘extremism’. Discussing why extremist ideologies are not representative of Muslim belief structures, why violence is not the answer and why Islam is very much compatible with democratic and British values is much more effective than trying to censor unwanted ideologies.
“Quilliam promotes developing these counter-narratives more adequately online through critical engagement. We also would like to see digital literacy skills better taught in schools addressing critical consumption so that young people are better prepared to question material and information they find online.”