A video report released by StratNewsGlobal pieces together what seems to be the interrogation footage of the three Malayali women who had fled India to join the ISIS.

Video The justifications of women who left Kerala to join ISIS with their families
news ISIS Monday, March 16, 2020 - 13:40

Nearly four years after 20-odd Keralites fled India to join the terrorist outfit Islamic State (ISIS), a video report has now emerged in which three Malayali women speak about their life before and after the Caliphate.

Titled “Khorasan Files: The Journey Of Indian ‘Islamic State’ Widows”, the video report appears to piece together footage from the questioning of the three women by Indian officials– Sonia Sebastian alias Ayisha, Nimisha alias Fathima, and Rafeala. The report, which lasts nearly 30 minutes, was released by StratNewsGlobal, a New Delhi-based news website.

The three Malayali women had fled between 2016 and 2018 with their husbands to join the ISIS. While some of them had fled with their children, others like Nimisha (Fathima) gave birth during their times with the Da’esh. However, after their husbands were killed, they were among the several thousand fighters and their families who surrendered to the Afghanistan government in 2019.

Read more: Kerala IS mastermind Rashid’s wife Ayesha surrenders in Afghanistan

According to the report, nearly 14,000 fighters and family members surrendered to the Afghanistan government between October and December 2019. The three women are asked about their decision to join the ISIS, their life under the Caliphate and their desire for the future, including the possibility of returning to their home country. 

Sonia Sebastian, who converted to Islam and now goes by the name Ayisha, married Abdul Rashid Abdulla in 2011. Kasargod-native Abdul Rashid has been named by the NIA as the mastermind behind several Keralites fleeing the country to join the ISIS. Sonia and Abdul Rashid had fled in 2016 along with their daughter. 

Sonia (Ayisha) says that she is looking forward to return to India and join her husband’s family.

“Now, I want to return to India to my husband’s family and I want to cut myself off from everything that has happened. My husband is also no more and what I have left is his family and now I wish to return to India,” she says.

Questioned about the possibility of her future association with the Islamic State, Sonia insists that she has decided to completely cut off from the ISIS.

“I don’t want to associate myself with this anymore, never again,” she is heard saying.

Asked about the motivations behind joining the ISIS, Sonia says that the primary reason they “moved” was “to live an Islamic life under the Caliphate”.

“I came to Khorasan in 2016. I accompanied my husband and once we reached here, many things we saw were not up to our expectations. We came here expecting an Islamic life, to live under Islamic law, but many things were not up to our expectations, be it the salah in the masjid... or... many different things. So this was kind of a disappointment. And so I’m assuming many people are coming with the same expectations but that’s not what the reality is. I would suggest everybody to rethink their decisions and think carefully before doing anything.”

Nimisha, however, answers reluctantly when she is asked whether she wants to come back to India, “I’m confused. 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.”

‘Disappointed’

The reason for joining the group was to live an Islamic life, Sonia insists, while brushing off questions about the brutalities committed by ISIS.

“One reason why many people moved to Islamic state was... they weren’t motivated by slaughtering. That was all one side... I don’t know, sadists may be motivated by such things. Slaughtering and all is so difficult for us to digest. So the reason we moved was to live an Islamic life under a Caliphate, Muslim rule. But once we reached there, many of our expectations were not met,” Sonia says.

Sonia further says that she and her husband Rashid were ‘disappointed,’ years after joining the ISIS, but did not consider leaving the Caliphate sooner.

“There’s no system here. Nothing is happening and people don’t come to the masjid to pray. He (Rashid) was very particular about such things. There were lots of people who would never come to the masjid, but the leaders didn’t do anything about it. Because that’s the main part about our religion... 5 times prayer and he was very particular about it. Towards the end of his life, he was very disappointed. He had stopped making the audios also, he was not doing anything, he was just taking care of the household,” Sonia says.

Abdul Rashid ran a group on Telegram to allegedly radicalise more Keralites by sending extremist audio messages.

“He never spoke about coming back, but he was very demotivated. Even his last words when he was killed, he was like, I’m done with this duniya (world), I want to somehow leave. Those were his last words, there was a brother who witnessed his death. That was a message his wife gave me. I understood it when I heard it. He didn’t explicitly tell me that he was disappointed, but being a wife I knew. He was fed up.”

‘Not involved in brutality, led a normal life’

Sonia emphasises that she was neither personally involved in any violence nor was she aware of the brutalities caused by ISIS fighters. Questioned about her association with the group, she says that she does not regret accompanying her husband.

“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.

Questioned about her Da’esh ideologies, Nimisha says she only wanted “Allah’s Shariya to be here”.

Life after the fall of the Caliphate

Soon after Rashid was killed, the family was on the move, fleeing to ‘safer’ places.

“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, we have been running. 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 says.

While Sonia emphasises that she wants to return to India, Nimisha admits that she is “confused” about what she wanted.

“When there was a Khalifa (caliphate), when I was in Mamund, I was happy at that time. So I can never say that Khilafa was wrong, what I did was wrong. That I can’t say, right? Because I had a comfortable life there. So now the situation is different. And I have no idea what is happening. So I don’t know, is there any place at all, or nothing. At this point, there’s no point in doing hijrah. But at the same time, I can’t say that when there is a khilafa, we shouldn’t do hijrah, that I can’t say,” Nimisha says.

Nimisha’s mother Bindu has been petitioning the central government to help bring her daughter back to India.

Asked whether she would indeed like to meet her mother, Nimisha says: “I don’t know if it’s in qadr, if so I will meet her.”

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