What has life been like for the Islamic State 'poster girls'?
A pair of teenage girls fled Austria to become 'jihadi brides' for the Islamic State. Officials now say the girls have contacted their families and want to come home.
Two teenage girls who fled their Austrian homes to join the Islamic State, described as ‘poster girls’ for the caliphate, are now desperate to return after apparently becoming disillusioned with their jihadi lifestyle.
The girls, 15-year-old Sabina Selimovic and 17-year-old Samra Kesinovic are both pregnant, according to the International Business Times. The pair, who are among hundreds of young women who have been reportedly wooed by IS fighters to become “jihadi brides,” were persuaded to travel to Syria in April.
Before leaving, the girls, who are the children of Bosnian migrants, had started lecturing schoolmates in Vienna about their Muslim beliefs and left a note for their parents: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him,” the Mirror reported.
It is believed they are living in Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, a city governed by strict sharia law.
Austrian police say that the girls’ social media accounts were taken over and manipulated to broadcast fake messages to encourage other young girls to head to Syria, according to the Vienna Times. Photos show the girls, smiling and wearing traditional clothing, flanked by armed Muslim fighters.
But security service insiders have told Austrian media that the girls have somehow managed to contact their families “to say they have had enough, and want to come home,” the Vienna Times reported. But those same officials warn “there is almost now no chance that they will be able to leave their new lives after they became internationally famous and the images were shared all round the world.”
If they were to return, they could face five-year prison sentences for supporting a terrorist organization, according to the Daily Express.
News of the girls’ attempts to return home comes amid reports of Western women flocking to similar jihadi lifestyles. Dozens of teenagers – including a young Jewish girl – have fled France to join Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, French intelligence has revealed, according to the Daily Mail.
The departures are less the whims of adolescents and more the conclusions of months of work by organised radical recruitment networks that specifically target young people in search of an identity.
These mostly online networks recruit girls to serve as wives, babysitters and housekeepers for jihadists, with the aim of planting multi-generational roots for a long-lasting Islamic caliphate.
IS recruiters plan the entire journey for the girls, and ensure their families are completely unaware.
The Daily Mail noted Selimovic and Kesinovic had contact with Chechen youths, visited a mosque in Vienna, and police worried the two were inspiring others after two more teenage girls attempted to follow their lead.
In September, a Syrian woman walked the streets of Raqqa with a camera hidden in her niqab. The video offers a rare glimpse of what life is like in the IS stronghold, where the group has imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law.