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11 American women who left the US to become ISIS brides and fighters

Published by Business Insider on Thu, 21 Feb 2019

Hoda Muthana, an ISIS bride who was denied a request to return to the United States, is one of hundreds of Americans who have tried to join ISIS since 2011.While the majority of the recruits are men, many women have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS or wed ISIS fighters.An American woman fighting for ISIS was the first American killed in the Syrian conflict in 2013.The whereabouts of some of the women are unknown, and others, including three teens from Colorado, were stopped by police before they could make physical contact with ISIS.The State Department announced on Wednesday that a US-born woman who left Alabama to join the Islamic State would not be welcomed home. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Hoda Muthana "does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States."But she's not the only American woman who has traveled to Syria further the ISIS cause. Muthana is one of hundreds of Americans who have attempted to join the Islamic state and other radical Islamist groups, according to a recent report from George Washington University's Program on Extremism.Of the 300 attempts, the report names 72 Americans who have successfully traveled to Syria or Iraq and joined ISIS and other jihadist groups since 2011. Just 12% of the travelers have been women.In recent weeks, several women from across the world who are now living in Syrian refugee camps have identified themselves as ISIS brides, asking to return home to the US, Europe, and Canada.Audrey Alexander, the author of the GWU Program in Extremism's report "Cruel Intentions: Female Jihadists in America," told INSIDER that while many of the women have different motivations for joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, many marry ISIS fighters for safety and security while building the Islamic State.Read more: ISIS brides from Canada, the US, and Europe are asking to return home years after fleeing for Syria. Here are their stories."Once youre in ISIS-controlled territory, being married brings you security, money, goods, status, and treatment. So there are real incentives to be married while youre there," she said, adding that being married is one of many auxiliary roles many women have in the society, like raising children and running social media pages."What women want to do there, and what the mission is, is to create an Islamic State," Alexander said. "And women's roles in that is to serve in a domestic role in some capacity, but it's really a broader state building effort, an experiment in so many ways."Alexander's report profiles several women who moved or attempted to move from the US to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Some of the women moved to the countries with their husbands, while others went alone.At least one woman has died, two have been sent to jail, one is begging to return to the US, and the whereabouts of others remain unknown.Here are some women's stories.Hoda Muthana left Alabama for ISIS in December 2014, and is now asking to return.Hoda Muthana was 19 when she left her home in Alabama to join ISIS in Syria in November 2014.She was radicalized online, according to a 2015 BuzzFeed report, andused a phone given to her by her father to access conservative Islamic lectures online.Once in Syria, she started a popular Twitter account where she made violent calls to action.One tweet read: "Go on drive bys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc dayKill them."She has had three ISIS-connected husbands since arriving in Syria,according to The Guardian.First she married Australian jihadi Suhan Rahman, who was killed in March 2015. She then married a Tunisian ISIS member, who fathered her son before being killed in Mosul. In 2018, she married a Syrian fighter.Muthana was captured by Kurdish fighters in January 2019 and is now living in the al-Hawl Syrian refugee camp in northeast Syria, which holds about 39,000 people.She has asked to return to the US, saying she regrets her actions.The State Department announced on Wednesday that Muthana "will not be admitted into the United States."Samantha Elhassani is accused of aiding ISIS while living in Syria with her late husband.Samantha Elhassani is accused of supporting ISIS fighters and using her son as a trainee while living in Syria with her husband and children.Elhassani has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS and to aiding and abetting individuals in providing material support to ISIS, according to the Chicago Tribune.Elhassni married Moroccan-born Moussa Elhassani in July 2012, and together they raised Samantha's 4-year-old son from a previous relationship and their daughter in Elkhart, Indiana.In November 2014, Moussa told Elhassani that he and his brother wanted to join ISIS, and the couple "began making financial and logistical preparations for a trip to Syria," according to court documents seen by The Tribune.Elhassani stopped sending her son to school, telling his biological father that they were traveling to Paris and his informing his teacher that the boy would be home-schooled.In 2015, Elhassani, Moussa, Moussa's brother, and Elhassani's two children crossed into ISIS-controlled territory in Syria through Turkey.Videos obtained by the FBI that were taken in Syria show Elhassani's young son in propaganda videos, and assembling and disassembling rifles and suicide belts.Elhassani told The Frontline that her husband was killed fighting for ISIS, and she fled the terror group in late 2017.Shortly after fleeing, Elhassani and her children were taken into custody by Kurdish forces.In July 2018 she was extradited to the United States and is now in an Indiana jail where she awaits trail. Her children have been placed in foster care.Elhassani has claimed that her husband coerced her into traveling to Syria and backing ISIS.Her trial is expected to start in 2020.Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, became the first American to die in the Syrian conflict in 2013.Nicole Lynn Mansfield was a white woman who grew up Baptist in Flint, Michigan.Mansfield converted Islam shortly after her grandfather died in October 2007, her father told USA Today in 2013. Other family members said Mansfield converted after marrying a Muslim man.It remains unclear when she started supporting extremest views, but Alexander said many Americans who support jihadist groups are self-taught."What the internet tells you sometimes is the most drastic easy to find and accessible thing," Alexander said. "And we have to think about that kind of information can happen with ideological materials."According to Alexander's report, Mansfield likely traveled to Syria in 2013, prior to the official declaration of the self-proclaimed caliphate.Family members told USA Today that Mansfield first traveled to Tunisia before going to Syria.According to Alexander's GWU report, Mansfield may have assumed a media coordinator role within an Islamist rebel group.Mansfield was killed in a 2013 firefight in the Syrian city of Idlib.According to The Guardian, Mansfield died alongside two other fighters and was carrying her driving license and her US passport.Mansfield is the first Americanwoman thought to be killed in Syrian conflict.See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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