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    Women of Daesh

    On the Run, Nowhere to Call Home: The Most Notorious Wives and Mothers of Daesh

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    Kit Klarenberg

    Existing legislation will be enforced make the war-torn country – where Daesh* is based – become a 'designated area', making it illegal to remain in terror hotspots overseas without a valid reason, such as aid work or a relative's funeral. It’s the first time such powers have been used.

    UK jihadists who travel to Syria will face up to ten years in prison upon their return home, Home Secretary Sajid David has announced.

    The the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which came into force earlier in 2019, is designed to allow the authorities to prosecute individuals, even when there is limited evidence of a suspect's activities abroad. The experiences of several 'Daesh brides' over the years show there's no way to easily know what foreign recruits have been doing in Syria — or whether certain individuals are even alive or dead.

    We Three Witches

    Begum is but one of three Muslim women — along with Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana who joined Daesh after attending London's Bethnal Green Academy. They fled in February 2015, flying from West Sussex to Istanbul — they stole family jewellery to pay for their flight. The next month, a travel ban was imposed upon five girls from the Bethnal Green Academy due to concerns from social services they might try to join the group too.

    Their disappearance has been attributed to Aqsa Mahmood, a woman from Glasgow, Scotland who joined the terror group in 2013 — electronic communications between the girls and Mahmood have been identified. Mahmood, who denies the allegations, faces criminal charges if she returns.

    Kadiza Sultana, left, Shamima Begum, centre and and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, before they caught their flight to Turkey on Tuesday Feb 17, 2015
    © AP Photo / Metropolitan Police
    Kadiza Sultana, left, Shamima Begum, centre and and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, before they caught their flight to Turkey on Tuesday Feb 17, 2015

    In March 2015, footage was circulated of Abase Hussen, father of Amira Abase, at a 2012 rally led by UK-based Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary against the controversial film Innocence of Muslims. Hussen has said he feels ashamed of his involvement in the rally, as he didn't know who'd organised it.

    The disappearance resulted in the Metropolitan Police giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons in March 2015, after their families all travelled to Turkey to probe their disappearances, deeming UK law enforcement's investigation inadequate. The families of the girls received an apology from Scotland Yard, and then Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe stated they would not face criminal charges if they returned to the UK. However, the revocation of Begum's passport — and Javid's latest proposals — suggest travelling back may not be so easy.

    France's Most Wanted

    Hayat Boumeddiene is currently being sought by French police as a suspected accomplice of her husband Amedy Coulibaly, the primary suspect in the Montrouge shooting, in which police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe was shot and killed, and the hostage-taker and gunman in the Porte de Vincennes siege, in which he killed four hostages before being killed by police.

    Intriguingly, according to Coulibaly's lawyer she was the more radical of the two, and helped him plan and commit the attacks. She arrived in Turkey five days before they took place, and was last tracked on 10th January 2015 to the Daesh-controlled border town of Tell Abyad in Syria. 

    ​She has been described by newspapers as "France's most wanted woman", and by French police as "armed and extremely dangerous", having trained to use firearms. 

    In February 2015, French authorities began investigating whether a woman in a video — Blow Up France 2 — released 3rd February by French-speaking Daesh fighters might be Boumeddiene. In it, a woman resembling her stands next to the speaker wearing camouflage clothing and holding a weapon. 

    In March 2019, Dorothee Maquere — widow of jihadist Jean-Michel Clain — claimed Boumeddiene was killed in late February during the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, when a US airstrike struck a Daesh safehouse containing various French jihadists. These claims remain unconfirmed.

    White Widow

    Sally-Anne Frances Jones — AKA Umm Hussain al-Britani, or as Sakinah Hussein, or the White Widow — was, or is, a British-born terrorist, recruiter and propagandist for Daesh.  

    Born in South East London, her parents divorced when she was young, and her father took his own life when she was 10. Brought up a Catholic, she participated in Christian youth groups while a teenager, leaving school at 16 and becoming part of a punk rock band.

    However, she converted to Islam around May 2013, allegedly due to the Iraq War, and married Daesh fighter Junaid Hussain, travelling to Syria with her younger son JoJo to join him.

    ​Hussain was killed by a US drone strike in August 2015 — after his death, Jones commented that her husband was killed by "the greatest enemy of Allah", and had been "a good role model for my children".

    Jones is alleged to have attempted to recruit hundreds of British women to work for Daesh via Twitter, and called on them to carry out terrorist strikes in London, Glasgow, and Wales during Ramadan. US court documents link Jones and her husband to at least a dozen Daesh plots, many of which either did not take place or were stopped. She also helped publish online three lists of US military personnel as potential targets for jihadists.

    Jones was placed on a special forces 'kill list' after threatening Queen Elizabeth II in 2017. In October that year, it was reported Jones had been killed in a US drone strike the previous June, along with her 12-year-old son JoJo — a Daesh child soldier — on the basis she was last seen fleeing an air attack in Raqqa, but questions abound over whether she in fact survived and is now in hiding. If she was slain in the strike, Jones is the first woman to be directly targeted in an airstrike — are there are questions over the legality of the strike, due to her son's presence, and the fact under International Committee of the Red Cross guidance Jones could not be considered a member of Daesh (and thus a legitimate target) as she did not carry out a "continuous combat function".

    Whatever the truth of the matter, JoJo is thought to have participated in a video in which JoJo, along with four other boys, shot five Kurdish hostages in the back of the head. He is also alleged to have been routinely used as a human shield to prevent being targeted by drone attacks.

    Gallows Pole

    Linda Wenzel was born to a Christian family in the small German town of Pulsnitz, near Dresden and the Czech border, in 2001.

    At the start of 2016 her classmates noticed a change in her behaviour, when Wenzel starting listening to Arabic music and asked the headmaster for permission to wear a headscarf at school. That spring she told her parents of her growing interest of Islam, but didn't reveal that she'd already converted, having been approached by extremists online — during Ramadan, she told her family she was on a diet.

    Her parents accepted her interests, and even bought her a copy of the Qur'an. On 1st July that year she told her mother she was going out to stay with a friend, and would return the following afternoon. Police later found receipts for two tickets from Dresden to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Istanbul purchased with fake authorization from her mother's account and her mother's passport hidden under the mattress in her room.

    According to Wenzel, she was groomed online by a Jordanian teenager named Fatema who convinced her to convert to Islam and introduced her to her future husband. Upon arrival in Syria she married a Chechen Daesh fighter, then travelled to Mosul to fight for the terror group. Her husband was killed at the beginning of the Battle of Mosul. Some have speculated she may have served as a sniper, having been trained by her husband, and was alleged to have admitted she killed Iraqi soldiers. During the siege of Mosul she suffered a gunshot wound to her left thigh, and an additional wound to her right knee from a helicopter attack.

    Wenzel was also believed to have been a member of the Al-Khansaa Brigade, responsible for enforcing the Islamic State's Islamic morality code, inflicting punishments, including whipping for Sharia Law violations, such as women wearing make-up or failing to cover themselves in accordance to the Daesh's standards. On 18th July 2017, she was captured in Mosul by Iraqi troops along with four other German women — she had a malnourished baby boy, presumed to be her son, with her at the time. Footage of her capture, in which she was seen screaming and crying as she was being dragged by Iraqi forces, was disseminated a couple of weeks following her capture. In May 2018, she was sentenced to five years in prison for being a Daesh member and entering Iraq illegally — German diplomats had worked desperately to prevent her from receiving the death penalty.

    * Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries


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