On Feb. 17, 2015, Sultana and two of her friends boarded a flight to Turkey, from where they crossed the border to Syria. These three young girls had become the Islamic State's latest recruits.
Sultana, Shamima Begum and Abase Hussen became infamous back at home, dubbed the "Bethnal Green Girls" by British media. But they were far from alone in their quest to join the Islamic State. According to information released Tuesday by Britain's police service, 56 women and girls were reported missing in 2015 by their families, who feared they had traveled to join the Islamic State. The full number of those who traveled to Syria may be higher.
A new video produced by British police seeks to sway those women and girls who might be tempted to travel to Islamic State territory. It uses people who know all too well about the horrors of the group. The women featured in the video are all refugees from Syria and mothers themselves.
“Please tell your daughter my story so that she can understand that Syria is a dangerous place to live and no place to bring up children,” said one woman in the video, identified as only as Zakaa. “Any Syrian man or woman would tell you that there is no need for anyone to come to our country to risk their lives to fight or support the fighting.”
The video is designed to appeal to mothers who might take their own children as well as other young people who may also be vulnerable. According to one recently released poll, two-thirds of 11-to-25-year- olds would talk to their mother first if they were concerned that someone they knew might be radicalized or travel abroad to fight. The hope is that a Syrian mother's words can dissuade those who might travel to the Islamic State.
“The personal accounts of the women in this film highlight the harsh reality of life for women and children living in a war-torn country," Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said in a statement. "I hope they will go some way to helping young women and mothers stop and think about the huge mistake they would be making if they travel."
Sultana and her two friends are believed to still be in Syria, where they may have been married to Islamic State fighters. Last week, another woman who tried to take her children to the Islamic State was sentenced by a British court to more than five years in prison.
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