Austrian 'jihad poster girls' tell friends: we want to come home

Teenagers who travelled to Syria and married Isis fighters are horrified by the daily bloodshed

Tony Paterson
Monday 13 October 2014 18:04
Samra Kesinovic, 17, pictured before her departure for Syria, and after, in a burka
Samra Kesinovic, 17, pictured before her departure for Syria, and after, in a burka

Two teenage girls who left their families and their lives behind in Vienna six months ago and went to Syria to marry Isis fighters are reported to have contacted close friends and told them that they are sick of the bloodshed and want to go home.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and Sabina Selimovic, 16, were described as “jihad poster girls” by the Austrian media when photographs of them wearing burkas and toting assault weapons appeared online earlier this year.

The two girls, both Austrians of Bosnian extraction, left the vocational school they were attending in Vienna last April and went to Syria via Istanbul. The note they left behind for their shocked and anguished parents read simply: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”

The two girls were reported to have become radicalised after attending a mosque near their homes and reading about jihad on the internet. “We are going the right way, we are going to Syria to fight for Islam,” they said in their departure note. Vienna’s Österreich newspaper reported at the weekend that the two teenagers were living in Raqqa in central Syria and that Samra had married a Chechen Isis fighter by whom she had become pregnant.

But the newspaper said the girls had contacted friends in Austria and told them they were “sick” of the bloodshed and wanted to go home. Both are in an area where killing and executions are everyday occurrences. Samra was said to have told friends that death was with them “all the time”.

However the reports said that the two feared they might not be able to escape because too many people associated them with Isis.

The headmaster of the Vienna vocational school both girls attended interviewed Samra before she left for Syria. Peter Slanar told Germany’s Süddetusche Zeitung newspaper at the weekend: “She behaved as if she had been brainwashed.” She had told him al-Qaeda was a good organisation and that the US was responsible for 9/11.

Mr Slanar said: “It was impossible to get through to her.” Reports said there was a mosque in Vienna outside which teenage girls “only have to hang around” before they were spoken to.

The international centre for the study of radicalisation at King’s College London says that there are scores of other radicalised European teenage girls in Syria including 50 from the UK, 60 from France and 40 from Germany. The Austrian border police were reported to have stopped three teenage girls from going to Syria at the weekend. The youngest was said to be 14.

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine cited terrorism experts and relatives as sayings most girls only woke up to what was in store for them after their arrival. They said the girls were forced to marry Islamic fighters, obey strict Islamic laws and lived under permanent surveillance.

“They want to marry martyrs,” the Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp told the magazine, “There is this sort of obsession with paradise and life after death, which make it like a death cult. Death counts more than life.”

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