Inside The Lives Of The Wives And Widows Of ISIS

“Even my baby girl goes to bed with her gun.” Arranged marriages, slave maids, and militant babies: Photos posted to the Twitter accounts of women claiming to be members of ISIS provide a glimpse into the world of female jihadis.

Alice Mongkongllite for BuzzFeed News

Even as Twitter tries to delete accounts associated with ISIS, women claiming to be members of the group continue to use the platform as both a recruiting tool and a support group, providing outsiders with a unique glimpse into the everyday lives of female jihadis.

Six months after its initial investigation, BuzzFeed News takes another look at the women who travel to Syria and join ISIS. Some are new mothers, many are widows, and others have died.

Women claiming to be members of ISIS use Twitter to post selfies.

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Or pictures of their meals.

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Many of the images appear to be an attempt to convey the “normalcy” and “freedom” of life in ISIS-controlled territory.

Twitter: @umm_muthanna2

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Images of everything from the Western treats available in Shaam, or Syria, to shopping trips.

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But the tweets from these accounts also provide a glimpse into the difficulties and dangers of living in ISIS-controlled territory.

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And the harsh realities of life for some under militant rule.

Twitter: @Seeking4Good243

When men and women travel to ISIS-controlled territory, they happily shed their nationality to become “true members” of the “Islamic State.”

Twitter: @ZumarulJannah

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The women, who are encouraged to leave their homes and journey to Syria, sometimes post messages to the family members left behind.

Twitter: @UmmSuleym

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The ISIS members online refer to each other as family members — ukhtis, or sisters, and akhis, or brothers.

Twitter: @BintWater

The sisterhood, or akhawat, between ISIS members and “recruits” that began online is strengthened when the new women arrive in Syria.

Twitter: @Seeking4Good243

These relationships are documented and shared on social media.

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This account has been deleted: / Via Twitter: @AlBritaniyah

Sometimes accounts can remain online after someone has died, which appears to be the case with the account of @PearlOfIslam1.

Twitter: @pearlofislam1

The account, which started tweeting in December and hasn’t posted anything since Feb. 10, was purportedly created by a Kurdish woman who arrived in Syria in January.

Twitter: @pearlofislam1

In March, accounts associated with known women of ISIS tweeted messages suggesting that @PearlofIslam1 had died.

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Other accounts appearing to belong to women who have joined ISIS have also gone silent for months at a time, such as the one belonging to “Umm Nosaybah,” which hadn’t posted anything since November until after the publication of this story.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

Until March 17, Umm Nosaybah’s last tweet, posted on Nov. 10, was about missing her family.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

Unlike many of the other accounts associated with ISIS women, before going silent, Umm Nosaybah’s posts were less positive about life in ISIS-controlled territory.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

She tweeted about losing her brother, a fighter who was “martyred,” and later posts about the problems his death has created for her, a woman without family in Syria.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

With her mahram, or male guardian, gone, the account’s tweets indicate that she may have been forced into an arranged marriage.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

On March 17, Umm Nosaybah responded to BuzzFeed News on Twitter and posted several updates about her life and marital status.

Twitter: @xmujahidax

Despite Umm Nosaybah’s comments, according to tweets from known ISIS accounts, marriage is essentially a requirement for women who join ISIS.

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These tweets indicate that the marriages are arranged.

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Despite appearing to have little to no say over who they marry, women of ISIS who have entered into these relationships often post tweets explaining the benefits of marrying a fighter.

Twitter: @SistersHayaa

Some ISIS members arrive in Syria already married, often with children. This woman claims that she and her family left Sweden to live under ISIS control.

Twitter: @muhajirahfillah

She has tweeted several pictures of who she says is her Swedish-born daughter attending school in Raqqah.

Twitter: @muhajirahfillah

She also posts about her own struggles to learn Arabic.

Twitter: @muhajirahfillah

Another account, claiming to belong to a U.K. woman who moved to Syria with her husband and children, also tweets photos of their new life in ISIS-controlled territory.

Twitter: @ukht_fillah2

Young mothers post images of their children with weapons — some of which appear to be toys.

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One of the most important duties for all ISIS women, especially the new wives of fighters, is to become pregnant and raise a new generation of militants.

Twitter: @UmmYaqiin

It seems to be part of the recruitment strategy.

Twitter: @MuslimahMujahi1

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Some couples having children say they moved to Syria together.

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Others say their marriages were arranged upon arrival.

Twitter: @__BirdOfJannah

A man claiming to be an ISIS fighter posted this image of a newborn child, with the caption, “The Little Terrorist #Hammam was born in the land of the caliphate, I ask God Almighty to make him one of the Caliphate’s soldiers.”

This tweet has been deleted / Via Translation by BuzzFeed News / Hannah Jewell

Due to the danger of being an ISIS fighter — and the fact that many men volunteer for fatal missions — many of these children are or will become fatherless, according to posts from ISIS supporters on Twitter.

Twitter: @TweepLast

Some will never meet their fathers.

Twitter: @umnu7

For ISIS members, becoming a shaheed, or martyr, is the ultimate goal. Therefore, death is something to be celebrated, not mourned.

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Many ISIS wives have become widows, raising children on their own.

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Many of these women seem to aspire to be the wife and mother of a “martyr.”

Twitter: @SistersHayaa

When a woman’s husband dies in battle, other women — those who have also lost their husbands as well as those who are still married — post messages of consolation.

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Also posted are messages of celebration, as “martyrdom” is the goal of all fighters.

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Among the many widows of ISIS are some of the high-profile Western women who left their families to travel to Syria and marry a militant. U.K. citizen-turned-propaganda star Khadijah Dare’s husband died in December.

Twitter: @Isa_Muh89

Twin sisters Salma and Zahra Halane, 16, who ran away from their family in Manchester in July, have also been widowed, according to Twitter.

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These ISIS widows use Twitter as a support group of sorts.

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They also use it to boast about the perks of living under ISIS as a widow.

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Since so many ISIS members use social media, it’s possible to track a relationship from marriage to “martyrdom.” This can be seen through the accounts of “Umm Abdullatif” and her now-dead husband “Abu Abdullatif.”

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Australian media identified the couple as Zehra Duman, 21, and Mahmoud Abdullatif, 23.

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Courtesy Duman family

 

They both (separately) left their homes and families in Melbourne to travel to Syria, Abdullatif in July and Duman in November.

Twitter: @riseyamuslim

They were married in December.

Twitter: @riseyamuslim

Abdullatif was killed in battle on Jan. 17, according to multiple now-suspended Twitter accounts. Duman posted an image of her spouse the next day.

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She also sent a message to his Twitter account (which has not been suspended).

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Before her account was suspended, Duman was using it to post pictures and memories of her husband.

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Instead of mourning, Duman used her account to explain why she was happy about her husband’s death.

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How she hoped for the same “honor.”

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Like the accounts of other women, she hopes for a “beautiful death” for herself and all ISIS supporters.

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update

This post has been updated to reflect new tweets posted after its publication.

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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.
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