Family of Kerala woman who joined ISIS upset as govt won't allow return

As per reports on April 27 2021, four women from Kerala are among the 408 members of the Islamic State who were arrested from 13 countries and are lodged in Afghanistan’s prisons.
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With media reports stating the Union government will not be taking measures to bring back the four Kerala women who left India to join the Islamic State in Khorasan Province  (ISKP) with their husbands and are currently lodged in jail in Afghanistan, the family of one of the four women has expressed disappointment with the government’s decision. "As per human rights a woman has the right to come back and she can face all the legal proceedings, including a trial, here. This is disappointing, at least my four-year-old granddaughter should be rescued," Bindu, the mother of one of the four women, told the media. Bindu has been fighting for her daughter and grandchild's return to India. In 2016, her daughter Nimisha married a man called Bexen from Palakkad. Nimisha and Bexen converted to Islam, changed their names to Fathima and Isa and left with almost 20 others to join the ISIS. In the next couple of years, while most of the men were reported to have been killed in missile attacks and such, few of the women surrendered.

However, a report by The Hindu’s Vijaita Singh and Suhasini Haider says that there is no consensus among the various investigation agencies in India to bring the women back. “One line of thought was to allow them to come back and become approvers in the cases here. However, their interview revealed that they are highly radicalised. The France model may be followed and the Afghanistan authorities can be requested to put them on trial there,” The Hindu quoted an official as saying.

As per reports on April 27 2021, Afghan national security directorate Ahmad Zia Saraj told the media that 408 members of the Islamic State from 13 countries are currently lodged in Afghanistan’s prisons, and this includes four Indians. Earlier in March 2020, a 30-minute video titled Khorasan Files: The Journey Of Indian ‘Islamic State’ Widows was released by StratNewsGlobal, a New Delhi-based news website. The report featured the interrogation of three women — Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Nimisha alias Fathima, and Rafaela, by Indian officials. The three Malayali women had fled between 2016 and 2018 with their husbands to join ISIS. However, after their husbands were killed, they were among the several thousand fighters and their families who surrendered to the Afghanistan government in 2019. It was also learnt from reports that Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam, who hailed from Ernakulam was also with the three other women. Merrin had married Nimisha's husband Bexen's brother, Bestin.

In the video report, the women were heard expressing their wish to come back to India. It was also reported that officers of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) visited them in Afghanistan, and questioned them. Following this, the government reportedly decided not to bring them back.

In the video, Fathima (Nimisha) could be heard saying,"I’m confused (about returning back to India. Basically I can’t depend on anyone. On my husband or my family and stay for a long time. I definitely need income. In Da’esh, the widows and orphans will be taken care of and money will be provided for them every month, without getting remarried... of course, I can’t say that I want to live in Afghanistan, this is not my place. India was my place, so if they will take me, if they won’t put me in jail and I’m not oppressed, then I would want to go back to India.”

Sonia had said that she had not been personally involved in the violence. “My husband did what he wanted and I can’t say I regret I came, I got three years more with him. Otherwise, he would have left me and gone. That was for sure. And once I reached there, I was not involved in anything. We were in the house, we weren’t exposed to any brutalities, we were not involved. We were not aware of it. I don’t know, in Sham, lots of things were affected. But in Horesan, we didn’t hear of such things happening. We lived a very normal life. We were not exposed to anything,” she says.

The NIA had in 2017 filed a chargesheet after 21 men and women from Kerala left the country to join the ISKP. Sonia Sebastian, who converted to Islam and now goes by the name Ayisha, had married Abdul Rashid Abdulla in 2011. Kasargod-native Abdul Rashid has been named by the NIA as the mastermind behind this whole migration. Sonia and Abdul Rashid had fled in 2016 along with their daughter.

Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam was married to Bestin Vincent alias Yahiya who hailed from Palakkad. Nimisha alias Fathima married Bestin's brother Bexon alias Iza. Both couples left the country in 2016. There, Nimisha gave birth to a girl, who is four years old now.

Rafaela had married Ijas Kallukettiya Purayil, a doctor from Kasargod. All the four men — Rashid, Bestin, Bexon and Ijas — were killed in Afghanistan, after which their wives surrendered with children. Rafaela has a one-year-old baby.

“After Rashid’s death, we have only been running. Right after he was killed, our place became unsafe. All the ladies were living in one house. After his death, life has become very difficult. He is also not there, I am my own, my child is there, and we are always running,” Sonia was heard saying in the StartNewsGlobal video. 

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