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How ISIS Uses Twitter To Recruit Women

A tight-knit online "sisterhood" encourages women to leave their homes and journey to Syria.

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Images of Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, were captured on CCTV at London's Gatwick airport Feb. 18, before the girls boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, Metropolitan Police said. They were later seen leaving a Turkish bus stop, likely en route to the Syrian border and ISIS-controlled territory.

Days before the girls' departure, a Twitter account appearing to belong to 15-year-old Shamima Begum tweeted to an account associated with a female ISIS member known online as Umm Layth.

Mahmood used her account (which has since been deleted) to tweet about her willingness to help women who wished to leave their homes and travel to ISIS-controlled territory.

Mahmood's page indicates that she followed Begum's Twitter account after seeing the girl's tweet, possibly to message her tips about her journey to Syria.

Mahmood is part of a small clique of ISIS women with active — and publicly visible — Twitter profiles. They use the platform to share "the truth" about their lives in Syria and Iraq and make themselves available to potential "recruits."

These accounts actively encourage interested parties to reach out to them using messaging apps like Kik and SureSpot for advice on how to "make hijrah," or migrate, to the "Islamic State."

In addition to offering one-on-one advice, these accounts also continually tweet reasons why women should leave their countries and join the militant group.

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Muhajirats: "Immigrants," used by ISIS supporters to describe the people who have left their countries and travelled to Syria.

In addition to encouragement, ISIS members post provocative, somewhat taunting, messages asking their followers why they haven't joined the group yet.

These outreach methods appear to be effective. An account of a woman who claimed to have arrived in Syria in November mentioned her excitement at meeting one of the "Akhawhat," or sisters, from Twitter upon her arrival.

Before her account was suspended, @YaManYarah said on Ask.fm that her parents "went crazy" and begged her to come home after she left.

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Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 6055 A264 DADD AADC 347E 5986 547C C11C DD7D 176A.

Contact Ellie Hall at ellie.hall@buzzfeed.com.

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