TL;DR – ISIS fighters seduce naive girls with beautiful lies to lure them to Syria. But in reality, Jihadi wives are brutally tortured – raped several times a day and sold as sex slaves.
It is really difficult to comprehend why a young educated female Singaporean would even dream of being an ISIS bride.
What’s even more perturbing is that her parents are Quranic teachers who gave her religious advice but were not successful in helping her turn back from the path of radicalisation.
The curious case of Izzah
22-year-old Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari (Izzah) is the first Singaporean woman who got detained by the Internal Security Act (ISA) for radicalism. She was a contract infant care assistant with a PCF Sparkletots Preschool.
According to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), she has been looking for an ISIS supporter to marry and settle down with him and her young child in Syria since 2015.
Izzah also believed that she would reap heavenly rewards if her husband died in battle and her status would be elevated as a “martyr’s widow” and easily marry another ISIS fighter.
Analysis by Reuters suggests that the desire to join ISIS is linked to what psychologists call “personal significance”. It also means “the desire to matter, to be respected, to be somebody in one’s own eyes and in the eyes of others”.
The person might have lost his or her sense of significance because of certain events in their lives (i.e. personal failure) and are looking for ways to fill the emptiness within them.
As investigations are taking place, it is unsure why Izzah was motivated to move to Syria. The MHA did not reveal other personal details such as the father of her child and the child’s age.
The undercover story from Anna Erelle
In 2015, a French journalist by the pseudonym of Anna Erelle went undercover as a jihadi girlfriend to investigate the hidden world of jihadi brides for a Paris magazine.
She masked herself as Melodie, a 20-year-old Islam convert who made contact with Abou Bilel who was believed to be the highest-ranking French ISIS fighter in Syria. She did everything she could to convince Bilel that she was real and interested in moving to Syria.
She dressed herself in a hijab, a long black dress and even re-positioned certain things in her apartment before engaging Bilel on Skype. She even carried Melodie’s outfit and phone with her at all times in case Bilel needed to speak to her.
While getting to know Melodie, Bilel was quick to compliment her beauty and offer words of affirmation. He would also shower her with plenty of affectionate messages peppered with “baby” here and there.
“You’re awfully curious,” Bilel said. “Tell me, do you wear your hijab every day?”
Mélodie recited what I’d heard from the majority of girls I’d met who had secretly converted to Islam.
“I dress normally in the morning. I say goodbye to my mom, and when I’m outside the house, I put on my djellaba and my veil.”
“Good. I’m proud of you. What you’re doing is really brave. You have a beautiful soul. And you’re very pretty on the outside, too.”
Bilel peered lecherously at Mélodie. I smiled.
“Can I ask what your job is?”
“That’s a job?”
“Of course it is! I work hard here. This isn’t Club Med!”
“I bet you helped capture Raqqa. There were pictures of the Islamic State everywhere.”
The Battle of Raqqa, which took place in March 2013, was one of ISIS’s bloodiest victories.
“You make me laugh!” he said. “Yes, of course. We obliterated them. It was crazy. . . . Tell me about you!”
“OK, but I’m too shy! Let me see your car first. It looks like you have a lot of interesting stuff.”
Bilel was glad to show off his car, delighted whenever Mélodie—whom he already considered his betrothed—flattered him. Mélodie told him she thought the white submachine gun sitting amid a heap of clutter on the backseat was pretty. “Do you like guns? I’ll give you plenty, starting with a lovely Kalashnikov.”
Melodie played along with Bilel’s game of seduction and eventually managed to gain his trust. Within a month of intense online interaction, Bilel wanted to make her his wife. He promised that she’ll be treated well in Syria and he will treat her like a queen.
However, Anna (as Melodie) was not swayed. She kept her eyes focused on the real mission. Unlike other girls who might be drawn in by the ISIS fighters’ good looks and sweet tongue, Anna knew she had to abandon the case before the operation became too dangerous.
Other girls who got lured over to Syria to be ISIS brides are not so lucky. Former Jihadi wives revealed that they were tortured by the fighters – including being raped five times a day, sold as sex slaves and burnt with cigarettes.
ISIS fighters promise these naive girls that they’ll have a nice house, husband, servants and everything a young girl would want. But the reality is that the fighters are brutal with women, even towards their wives. There were cases where the sexual violence was so bad that the wife had to be taken to the emergency ward.
Now these issues are not too far from home
Mr Syaikh Abdu Manaf Al Ansari, father of the 22-year-old Singaporean detainee Izzah, found documents in her room with information about moving to Syria, including how to get tickets.
If Izzah had not been detained by ISA, she might have continued to plan her route to Syria and become an ISIS bride, living in a hell-like environment with no point of return.
Her parents are deeply regretful for not reporting her earlier to the authorities when they noticed changes in her, especially when she started dressing in black and wearing the niqab.
“This should not have happened. I really regret it,” the father said.
They strongly encourage other parents to contact the authorities or Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) if they spot suspicious changes in their loved ones.
“To other parents, this comes from the bottom of my heart. If you see any sudden changes, et cetera, contact the authorities. If not (the authorities), contact RRG,” he said.
Highest level of terrorism threat in recent years
Singapore is currently facing the highest level of terrorism threat in recent years.
Just a few days ago, two Singaporean auxiliary police officers were detained for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act. One of them planned to travel to Syria to be involved in armed violence.
Singapore is also identified by ISIS supporters as part of its East Asia territory, according to a news report just released today,
The MHA urges all Singaporeans who knows, or suspects, a person is radicalised to promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism hotline: 1800-2626-473.
Possible signs of radicalisation include: fervent reading of radical materials; promoting and re-posting terrorism-related content; expressing support for terrorist groups; and encouraging others or indicating an intention to perpetrate terrorist violence.
Relatives and friends are in the best position to notice these signs and if they report suspicious behaviours at early stage, they may be able to save their loved ones from being too deeply radicalised. It will also make Singapore a safer place for all.
We cannot afford to lose another daughter or son of a Singaporean family.
Not to terrorism.
Djellaba refers to a long loose-fitting unisex outer robe with full sleeves.
Niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear.
Raqqa is a city in Syria located on the northeast bank of the Euphrates River.
Kalashnikov is also known as the AK-47 rifle.
Fatwa is used to indicate that a death sentence has been dealt to someone or some group of people.