Families Plead for Return of UK Schoolgirls Seeking to Join ISIS

Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Laura Lean - WPA Pool/Getty Images/AFP

The parents and siblings of three teenagers who fled England last week to join ISIS in Syria have pleaded with them to return home.

Amira Abase (15), Shamima Begum (15), and Kadiza Sultana (16) left home last Tuesday for Istanbul, Turkey, with intent of gaining entry to Syria where they could join ISIS. Apparently, no one at the airport questioned why the three young girls were traveling to a foreign country without an adult.

Family members of the three girls appeared on television to beg them to return home. Amira’s father told the BBC there was, “no sign to suspect her,” adding that she did not express interest in the Islamic State when speaking with her family. Amira sent her father a text message indicating she would be late getting home but when she did not arrive, her father contacted the police.

Shamima Begum’s family issued a statement saying, “We understand that you have strong feelings and want to help those you believe are suffering in Syria. You can help from home, you don’t have to put yourself in danger. Please don’t cross the border.” The family’s statement begged Shamima to “get in touch with the police,” so she could be returned home.

In an interview with Sky News, the sister of Kadiza Sultana made a similar requres saying, “We miss you and we love you… Find the courage in your heart to contact us and let us know that you’re safe.”

The three teens are just the latest women to have left England in order to join ISIS. So far, as many as 60 women in all have left the country to join the Islamic State. That’s just over 10 percent of the estimated 550 Western women from around the world who have left home to join ISIS.

Observers of the phenomenon claim that women are drawn to join ISIS for many of the same reasons as men: it’s a chance for adventure and a more authentic religious way of life. In a piece for the BBC, Katherine Brown of King’s College London wrote:

There is great deal of romanticism in women’s accounts about being part of this political project with a new version of a political Islamic “good life” built upon a particular idea of Islam and Sharia law. In this new ‘state’, women have all kinds of jobs and functions. For example, in the Syrian city of Raqqa they can join the so-called Al-Khansaa brigade, the all-female moral “police force” allegedly set up by a British woman.

The reality of life for women in the Islamic State is not nearly as romantic. A document by supporters of ISIS indicates that women should remain home and, in most cases, only require an education up to age 15 or 16. Women as young as 9 are considered eligible for marriage, and most women are expected to be married by age seventeen.


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