A blonde, blue-eyed Dutch teenager from a Catholic family who was rescued by her mother after marrying an Islamic State fighter in Syria is to appear in court Friday on terror charges.
Nineteen-year-old Aicha arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday with her mother Monique after going to Syria in February to marry an IS fighter she saw as a Robin Hood figure.
Annemarie Kemp, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office, told AFP Aicha had been arrested “on suspicion of crimes threatening state security”.
She will make a brief court appearance behind closed doors on Friday to decide if she should remain in detention, with another hearing on Monday to decide if she should be charged. As is routine in the preliminary stage of Dutch prosecutions, Aicha’s family name was not made public.
European nations are increasingly concerned about returning jihadist fighters, but the question of what to do with women who travel to Iraq and Syria but do not fight is a thorny one.
The authorities have barred Monique and Aicha’s lawyers from talking to the press because of the sensitivity of the case.
But Monique, 49, has previously spoken at length to Dutch media about her daughter, previously known as Sterlina before adopting an Arab name, who “liked going out, playing the piano and listening to music”.
She told Dutch television that her daughter first came home with the Bible, and then with the Koran. She converted to Islam and began wearing a face-covering niqab.
– Robin Hood figure –
The turning point came when Aicha saw an interview on Dutch television with a Dutch-Turkish jihadist fighter, Omar Yilmaz.
Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch army who also did national service in Turkey, is one of a group of Dutch jihadists who have travelled to Syria where he is training fighters for the IS group
Dutch authorities confiscated Aicha’s passport to prevent her travelling to Syria following warnings from a friend. But she obtained an identity card, which is obligatory in the Netherlands, with which she could travel.
In the interview with Dutch television, Yilmaz, a handsome, wiry man with shaved head and a beard, explained how he had come to train IS recruits to shoot.
He said that he had been approached by a brother to “give some fighters some extras tips and tools, so that when there is a firefight and when we ship them out, they know what they are doing”.
– Failed marriage –
Aicha asked her mother to help her after her marriage to Yilmaz failed and she ended up with a Tunisian fighter, the Dutch tabloid daily Algemeen Dagblad said.
The paper reported that a niqab-wearing Monique crossed the border into Syria and travelled to the IS stronghold city of Raqa, but the Dutch prosecutor’s office said they had met at the Turkish-Syrian border.
Roger Bos of the public prosecutor’s office in southern city Maastricht, told local television channel L1 that Aicha needed support.
Around 130 Dutch jihadists have left to fight in Syria, with 30 already having returned and 14 others killed in the fighting, according to the latest statistics from the Dutch intelligence services.
It is feared that returning jihadists, having been exposed to extreme violence, could be returning to Europe with orders to carry out terror attacks.