What makes books about Jihadi brides so intriguing are the characters and their motivations, their expectations and disappointments. What makes a teenage girl change her way of life so completely? And will the society they rejected ever accept them back? People are unforgiving, as we have seen this week, with Shamima Begum’s case being kicked out of court.
My novel The Missing Activist features a British-born Muslim convert Zinah al-Rashid who recruits brides to send to the Islamic State.
The sequel The Killing of the Cherrywood MP picks up on the collapse of the Caliphate. Girls want to return to their countries of birth, but public opinion is against it. And for those who have either slipped back and have put their past behind them, there are always those who resent them deeply and exact revenge. When a sharia-supporting MP is murdered, it seems as if there is a connection.
The killer questions
What fascinates me is the sharp contrast between the stable, egalitarian, comfortable Western lifestyles and that of the ISIS’ misogynistic society. Why have so many European women left behind the freedom and privilege of a peaceful, wealthy existence to join a brutal regime addicted to fighting? Are they radicalised? Or seeking adventure? Has feminism a part to play in driving them away? What meaning to their lives were they craving? And how did they find it? Or do they view their adventure as escapism rather like a macabre reality show?
Some authors of the excellent books which feature Jihadi women are writing from personal experience, others as a result of research work into the subject. Many of these narratives explore just those killer questions.
Hearing terrifying stories first-hand from naïve young girls tricked, abused and enslaved by ISIS, an ex-British Army soldier set up a high-risk operation to rescue as many as he could. Soldier Magazine’s book of the month, this true story with AK-47s and 9mm Glocks reads like a military thriller
Written by a counter-terrorism expert and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Security Studies at Georgetown University, she based this book on the true story of Shannon Conley, an American teen from Denver, Colorado seduced on the net, converted to Islam, took the niqab, and who ultimately ended up in the clutches of ISIS.
The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad and Jenna Krajeski
Written by a human rights activist and recipient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Sakharov Prize, this inspiring memoir covers the life of a 23-year-old Yazidi woman from her peaceful childhood in a remote village in Iraq to being captured and enslaved by Isis.
Undercover Jihadi Bride: Inside Islamic State’s Recruitment Networks by Anna Erelle
Written by an undercover journalist who creates an online identity called Melodie to investigate the recruitment of brides over the internet, this is a harrowing tale. She meets an ISIS brigade leader on Facebook. In 48 hours he has ‘fallen in love’ with her, calls her every hour, urges her to marry him, join him in Syria in a life of paradise and join his jihad.
The work of a journalist and academic, Azadeh Moaveni book takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ where wives of the fallen waited for remarriage. A nuanced and sometimes compassionate take on the complexity of the subject.
Jihadi Bride by Alastair Luft
A graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, and a 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Luft’s work is a plot-driven family drama. A father’s carefully controlled world working for an organisation that prevents radicalised individuals from joining extremist groups is upended when his daughter, Arielle, leaves university to join the Islamic Caliphate.
The Good Sister by Morgan Jones
The story of a 17-year-old Muslim girl from London who goes to Syria to join ISIS, and her Christian father’s dangerous attempt to ‘rescue’ her. Written by a former investigator and writer of spy thrillers, this is a raw insight into the horrors of war in Syria and an examination of the insidious grip of radicalisation.
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