Sonia Sebastian converted to become Ayesha and married Abdul Rashid Abdulla. Hindu doctor Nimisha married a Christian man, Bexon, both converted to Islam, and Nimisha assumed the name Fathima. Both women, hailing from Kerala, and of Malayali background, voyaged to Afghanistan and joined the international terrorist organization ISIS (or Islamic State i.e. IS) a few years ago.
A video of Ayesha surfaced last week, and she is heard stating, “I came to Khorasan in 2016. Once we reached here, many things we saw were not up to our expectations. We expected to live an Islamic life, under an Islamic law. That is not what the reality is. Now, I want to return to India, to my husband’s family,”
Her husband, Abdulla, who hails from Kottayam in Kerala, was the ring leader of Kasargod IS module and the main conspirator who oversaw the IS recruitment in Kerala. Ayesha was one in the 21 men and women from the southern state who were led by Abdul Rashid Abdulla, to join the Islamic State, and went in batches to Khorasan (a historical region encompassing part of modern day Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia).
They were mostly new converts to Islam and hailed from upper-middle-class and well-to-do families. They reached Afghanistan on foot through Iran. Nimisha, who was a dentist before converting to Islam and getting inducted into ISIS, had first travelled to Sri Lanka in 2016 claiming to run a carpet business along with her husband Esa (Bexon), and later joined the terrorist group.
Both these women are reported to have been converted in their founding days as college students. Their husbands, Abdulla and Esa were killed in the war with Afghanistan after which they were rounded up by Afghan agencies. Ayesha is now lodged at a Kabul jail. In the video, which has now been shared widely, she expressed the wish to return to her husband’s family.
Ayesha’s account of the ‘caliphate’ suggests that she was disappointed by the way of life led there. The couple wanted to live an Islamic life, but as per her, the ‘caliphate’ was not ‘Islamic enough’. Men didn’t go to prey in the masjid routinely. Her husband, who was one of the chief recruiters who lured in youth from Kerala for the Islamic State, had made about 90 audio clips for terrorist prospects. These videos were recorded to give a detailed insight into the lives of ISIS terrorists and unraveled all aspects of the life in the Islamic State to his Malayali audience.
On the other hand, Fathima said she would like to visit her mother’s place, provided, she is not arrested by the state police, imprisoned or tortured. Interestingly though, while the Hindu-convert-to-Islam admits that Afghanistan is not her place, and Bharat is, she also expresses her desire to stay in a land that is ‘governed by the ideals of the Sharia’. Fathima, unlike Ayesha, found the ‘caliphate’ life comfortable. “I cannot say that the ‘caliphate’ was wrong because I was comfortable at that time, but things have changed,” she says.
It is clear, that even after losing their respective husbands to terrorism, and having seen and experienced the ‘caliphate’ life from up close, both these ladies have their hearts rooted in radical Islam. While Ayesha is disappointed that the IS barracks were not as “Islamic” as she had expected them to be, Fathima, a qualified dentist, wants to be in a Sharia-governed land. Their opinions on Islam and life clearly expose the intensity of indoctrination they have endured at a young age, that despite having lost all, they are still emotionally connected to Islamist ideology.
However, back home, Fathima’s mother Bindhu Sampath has sought assistance from the external affairs ministry to aid these women’s Bharat return. Mrs. Sampath said, “After four years, I saw my daughter’s photo for the first time. I plead to the Union government to help them return. Let them face the law of the land. I hope the government will take some steps at the earliest.” A mother’s heart finds it easy to trust her daughter at face value, as she had birthed the IS-recruit.
But, as a sane society, as average Bharatiyas who have no weapons in our homes to safeguard ourselves in the face of catastrophe, are we ready to absorb women who have spent 4 years amongst terrorists, and are still fascinated by that life, in our midst?
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