The secret world of Isis brides: ‘U dnt hav 2 pay 4 ANYTHING if u r wife of a martyr’
What draws western women to Islamic State’s violent jihad? Nabeelah Jaffer spent months talking to British and American ‘sisters’, before and after they travelled to Syria. How were they convinced by promises of a ‘perfect’ society and life as a martyr’s widow?
Karen sat in a hotel room in Istanbul, grappling with a difficult decision. She had spent about $3,500 (£2,220) on the round trip to Turkey from her home in the US but, when she had bought the ticket, she had had no intention of flying home. The return bookings were for appearance’s sake. Her SMS mailbox was filled with promises for the future: messages from an Islamic State fighter who had promised to marry her. But as she sat in that Istanbul hotel room, something didn’t feel quite right.
Her prospective groom’s insistence on absolute secrecy had not seemed strange at first. Karen had met him through the swarm of Isis-friendly social media. They started by chatting on Twitter and Ask.fm, then moved to encrypted messaging apps such as Kik, Surespot and Telegram. Paranoia runs through most of the online interactions – no one’s identity is clear, and anyone could be bluffing. But the hint of danger was part of the glamour and Karen thought she was being careful. She was in her late teens and had recently graduated from high school, where she had been a lonely girl interested in Star Trek and computer programming. …