Making Hijrah to the Islamic State Caliphate

83 – Making Hijrah To The Islamic State

Anne Speckhard & Ardian Shajkovci

Making Hijrah the Islamic State Caliphateis the 83rdcounter narrative video in the ICSVE Breaking the ISIS Brand series. This video features 31-year-old Belgian, Beatrice, who was interviewed by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci in August of 2018 in a detention facility in northern Syria run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The video clip was video edited and produced by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. 

Beatrice, similar to other cases of  European converts and reverts to Islam, felt guilty about many life decisions she had made while living in Belgium, and felt she needed to  radically alter her life after converting to Islam. She  recalls, “When I entered in Islam, I wanted to change my life.” Before converting, she had been living a dissipate life, “For me, when I think about my life before, it was very bad what I did. I was using hashish, alcohol, so many things.” She states, “I wanted Allah to forgive me. This is the dream of all Muslims.”

As she entered into Islam, however, she, like many newcomers, found extremists beliefs that influenced her thinking. “I learned a little about Islam and then I heard about hijrah. Hijrah is a belief that groups like ISIS insist upon, that all Muslims should migrate to lands ruled by shariah law. Beatrice recalls being confused about how to accomplish that, “I searched many things [on the Internet]. I wanted first go to Malaysia or Indonesia. And then I read about Syria.”  

“I was on Facebook,” she recalls, “and I spoke with people in these days. And then [in 2014], I fell to ISIS.  While social media companies, including Facebook, have since taken robust steps to take down extremist  propaganda and recruiting profiles on their platforms, exposure to terrorist groups and their ideologies is one of the four factors that ICSVE researchers continually have found that can combine to make a terrorist (including strong social support for joining alongside individual vulnerabilities and motivations).[i]Likewise, despite strong take-down policies, social media platforms, including Facebook, still serve as a platform for terrorist propaganda and recruiters, particularly in foreign languages that are harder to monitor—profiles they take down as soon as they learn of them. Examining Facebook profiles in January of 2019, ICSVE researchers were able to identify over 500 ISIS distributors and endorsers operating in Albanian, Turkish, English, and Arabic, and many of them purportedly living in the Balkans, Turkey and Syria.[ii]This is chilling evidence that ISIS can still reach vulnerable individuals like Beatrice.

“I came alone from Belgium [in 2014],” Beatrice explains. She further adds, “But we crossed the border [into Syria] with many people. And then we went into one house. After this house, where they took all our papers, we went to Raqqa by car. [In Raqqa,] they say I must stay two months in themadhafa[women’s house] before I can marry and go out.”

Beatrice was very surprised to have her identity and travel documents confiscated by ISIS and to be locked up in the madhafa. She recalls learning their strict gender discriminatory rules and attempting to argue with the ISIS members holding her virtually as a prisoner until she agreed to marry an ISIS fighter. “If you don’t marry, you stay in the madhafa, closed. They say to me that women [aren’t permitted] to go out alone without a man, this, this. But this I don’t understand,  because it’s not from Islam. I stayed two months in the madhafaand then I married [a French foreign fighter],” she recalls.

She was paired with a man whom she described as kind enough to protect her from ISIS brutalities. “My husband was very caring.” He don’t [doesn’t] take me so much outside, because he knows it’s possible to see bad things [such as beheadings] or maybe bombs, you know,” she explains.

Despite her husband’s attempts to shelter her, Beatrice was aware of the captured Yazidi women who were repeatedly raped. “It’s not about Islam, what they do with the Yazidis, what they do with the women in the madhafa, what they do in [their] prisons,” Beatrice recounts. “This is not from the Sunna and the Quran. I never read like this,” she states.  She goes on to give examples of how ISIS routinely violated Islamic scriptures,  “Allah (SWT) said in the Quran, ‘Cut the hand,’ but there are conditions. You cannot cut the hand of someone because he steals glasses.” “The good of slavery in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) is to make them free.  To teach them Islam and to make them free. Not to rape them, to use them, to beat them like this,” she states.  

After Beatrice escaped from ISIS, she was detained in a camp with Samantha El Hassani, an American woman, who Beatrice claims had also been mistreated by ISIS. “She told me her story,” Beatrice recalls, adding, “This also is not from Islam. They tortured her. They beat her. They made her naked.”

Beatrice and her family tried to escape ISIS but were caught repeatedly. During one of those attempted escapes, their smuggler sold them to ISIS. “They caught us, and my husband went to jail,” she recounts.  He didn’t share with her what they did to him, but she knows it was bad.

Later, Beatrice and her one-year-old son escaped ISIS by joining a Syrian women’s caravan, which was allowed to travel into YPG-controlled territory. The YPG arrested and hold Beatrice in a detention camp run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“[My husband escaped ISIS] after me, ,because it was very chaotic,” she explains. He is held in another YPG detention facility.  (ICSVE researchers have been able to interview some of the European couples who were inside ISIS, now housed in such detention centers, although, in some instance, they  have declined to be interviewed).

“What is hard [about detention] is we don’t know when we will go back, if we will go back,” Beatrice explains. She worries, “What will happen with our children? If they will get sick,” if they will get hurt, that there are no vaccinations in the camp and some of the children have already died of Typhoid. “There are diseases,” she explains. “We don’t have all medicines to take care of children. We don’t have vaccinations. The most difficult here is for our children. Today [my son] Abdallah was coughing,” Beatrice alarmingly describes,  noting that she immediately thought he had whooping cough and might die. 

Beatrice wants to go back to Belgium but fears she will not be allowed to return home. Indeed, politicians and policy-makers throughout Europe are currently reluctant to repatriate their citizens who went to Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters and their spouses. They are also reluctant to take children either taken or born in the ISIS-controlled territory, allowing them to languish in Syrian and Iraqi detention camps and under despicable conditions.  Some of these children are passport carrying European citizens. This is tantamount to delivering collective punishment and allowing the children to suffer for the fact that at no fault of their own, their parents either brought them into ISIS territory or bore them there. 

“[Life in Belgium] was very good,” Beatrice recounts. “It’s my country. I grew up there. I was born there. And in fact it’s when we lose things that we really realize their value,” she explains.   

Beatrice recalls the lies she was told while living in Belgium. “When I was in Belgium and I converted to Islam, I was told, ‘No, Belgium is not for you. You have to go live in a Muslim country.’ But I can very well live my Islam in Belgium actually. And better than here [in Syria].”

When Beatrice was asked about revealing her identity or giving her real name, she expressed fear about ISIS members still active in Belgium and that people in Europe are still joining and supporting ISIS. She says that is, “Because they don’t know the truth [about ISIS].”

Beatrice ends her message with advice to others like herself living back in Belgium and possibly still exposed to their seductive lies: “I give advice to all young girls who want to join the ranks of ISIS: Don’t venture there. There’s nothing there. The reality is chaos. It’s manipulation, lying, treachery, and they played with Islam, in fact. They invented a totally fictitious Islam. Their practices are not part of Islam. And this Caliphate has never been a Caliphate, in fact. It’s totally a lie.”

Discussion Questions:

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Beatrice didn’t understand what kind of group ISIS was when she traveled to Syria?

What do you think of her claims of shock about being locked up in the women’s house and not being able to leave until she agreed to marry an ISIS fighter?

Do you believe European countries should repatriate their foreign fighter citizens or that the YPG should have responsibility to prosecute and house them? What are your reasons?

Do you think Beatrice is at present—or will be in the future—a  danger to Belgian society or would ever return to ISIS after her experiences inside the group?

What do you think about collective punishment—that is, holding children of ISIS parents in detention with them?

What do you believe should be done with ISIS wives who did not fight or engage in violence, and their children?

Beatrice has family members back home in Belgium, but she doesn’t want to send Abdallah home without her. What do you believe should be done with her child?

What should happen to her French husband who also escaped from ISIS?

Islamic Scriptures Related to this Video

Lying is one of the biggest sins in Islam. Allah condemned those who lie and make claims of what they do not do: “O Believers, why do you say what you never do? It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do.” Surah al-Saff, Ayah no. 2-3.

Once the Prophet (PBUH) was asked by his companions: “O Prophet of Allah, does it happen that a believer commits adultery?” He answered “Yes”, then they asked: “Does it happen that a believers steals?” he answered: “Yes”, then they asked him: “Does it happen that a believer lies?” he answered: “No, the believer does not lie!”.  This gives an idea of how serious Islam views lying.

It is obvious that ISIS, and other groups like them, tend to lie and exploit the Islamic teachings such as for Muslims to make hijrahto the Islamic State. They acted as if by naming it they had indeed created a real Islamic State, and by doing so fooled many ordinary Muslims who heeded such calls, many of which ended up either killed or imprisoned. 

In actual fact, the Islamic obligation of making hijrah has long ago ended, for the Prophet (PBUH) himself declared: “There should be no hijrah after the conquest [of Mecca].” It is obvious from the hadith that hijrahwas a temporal phase and it has ended by the order of the Prophet himself, so there is no one who has the authority to correct the Prophet or enact a new Islamic teaching on that same topic after his death.  

Transcript of Making Hijrah to the Islamic State Caliphate

BEATRICE

ISIS wife 

31-year old Belgian

When I entered in Islam, I wanted to change my life.

For me, when I think about my life before, it was very bad what I did.

I was using hashish, alcohol, so many things.

And then, I realized it was very bad.

I wanted Allah to forgive me. This is the dream of all Muslims.

I learned a little about Islam and then I heard about hijrah.

TEXT: Hijrah is the extremist belief that Muslims should migrate to lands ruled by shariah law.

I searched many things [on the Internet]. 

I wanted first go to Malaysia or Indonesia.

I don’t know. I was confused.  

And then I read about Syria. 

I was on Facebook, you know, and I spoke with people in these days.

And then [in 2014], I fell to ISIS.

I came alone from Belgium [in 2014]. But we crossed the border [into Syria] with many people.

And then we went into one house.

After this house, where they took all our papers, we went to Raqqa by car.

[In Raqqa,] they say I must stay two months in themadhafa[women’s house] before I can marry and go out.

If you don’t marry, you stay in the madhafa, closed.

They say to me that women [aren’t permitted] to go out alone without a man, this, this.

But this I don’t understand, because it’s not from Islam.

I stayed two months in the madhafaand then I married [a French foreign fighter].

My husband was very caring.

He don’t take me so much outside, because he knows it’s possible to see bad things [such as beheadings] or maybe bombs, you know.

TEXT: Despite her husband’s attempts to shelter her, Beatrice was aware of the captured Yazidi women who were repeatedly raped.

It’s not about Islam, what they do with the Yazidis, what they do with the women in the madhafa, what they do in [their] prisons.

This is not from the Sunna and the Quran. I never read like this.

Allah (SWT) said in the Quran, ‘Cut the hand,’ but there are conditions.  

You cannot cut the hand of someone because he steals glasses.

The good of slavery in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) is to make them free.  

To teach them Islam and to make them free.

Not to rape them, to use them, to beat them like this.  

Also, one woman from America, [Samantha El Hassani], she told me her story.

This also is not from Islam. They tortured her. They beat her. They made her naked.

TEXT: Beatrice and her family tried to escape ISIS.

They caught us, and my husband went to jail.

TEXT: During another escape attempt, their smuggler sold them to ISIS.

TEXT: Later, Beatrice and her one-year-old son escaped ISIS by joining a Syrian women’s caravan allowed to travel into YPG territory.

TEXT: The YPG arrested and holds Beatrice in a detention camp run by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

[My husband escaped ISIS] after me, because it was very chaotic.

TEXT: Beatrice’s husband is held in another YPG detention facility.

What is hard [about detention] is we don’t know when we will go back, if we will go back.

And what will happen with our children? If they will get sick.

If they will have one stone here, because children play with stones. I see open [cuts].

There are diseases. We don’t have all medicines to take care of children.

We don’t have vaccinations. The most difficult here is for our children.

Today [my son] Abdallah was coughing.

I was thinking, ‘Ok, enough, he has whooping cough now.’

No, I don’t think he has it, but we become a little bit hypochondriac.  

TEXT: Beatrice wants to go back to Belgium but fears she will not be allowed to return home.

[Life in Belgium] was very good. It’s my country. I grew up there. I was born there.

And in fact it’s when we lose things that we really realize their value.   

When I was in Belgium and I converted to Islam, I was told,

‘No, Belgium is not for you. You have to go live in a Muslim country.’

But I can very well live my Islam in Belgium actually. And better than here [in Syria].

TEXT: People in Europe are still joining and supporting ISIS.

Because they don’t know the truth.

I give advice to all young girls who want to join the ranks of ISIS:

Don’t venture there. There’s nothing there.

The reality is chaos. It’s manipulation, lying, treachery, and they played with Islam, in fact.

They invented a totally fictitious Islam.

Their practices are not part of Islam.

And this Caliphate has never been a Caliphate, in fact.

It’s totally a lie.

The Truth Behind the Islamic State

Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

 www.ICSVE.org

See more at www.TheRealJihad.org


About the authors:

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=101) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhard and on the ICSVE website http://www.icsve.org Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Ardian Shajkovci, Ph.D., is the Director of Research and a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). He has been collecting interviews with ISIS defectors and studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism as well as training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally. He has also been studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and how to rehabilitate them. He has conducted fieldwork in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, mostly recently in Jordan and Iraq. He has presented at professional conferences and published on the topic of radicalization and terrorism. He holds a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on Homeland Security Policy, from Walden University. He obtained his M.A. degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University and a B.A. degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Dominican University. He is also an adjunct professor teaching counterterrorism and CVE courses at Nichols College. 


[i]Speckhard, A. (2016). The lethal cocktail of terrorism. The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). http://www.icsve.org/the-lethal-cocktail-of-terrorism/

[ii]Speckhard, A., & Shajkovci, A. (2019). Is ISIS still alive on the Internet? Homeland Security Today.https://www.hstoday.us/subject-matter-areas/terrorism-study/is-isis-still-alive-and-well-on-the-internet/

Anne Speckhard

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and has also taught the Psychology of Terrorism for the Security Studies Department in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Dr. Speckhard has been working in the field of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1980’s and has extensive experience working in Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.