In this interview with “Al-Youm 24,” Amna Hidayatullah (a pseudonym) decided to reveal exciting details from her life, the life of her deceased husband, and her suffering with her children to tell us the story of the details of the death journey towards “the lands of ISIS.”
Amna reveals in the interview that her husband convinced her to accompany him to the land of jihad, after he was deceived by ISIS, and because she was forced to follow him – legally and in reality – she accompanied him on a journey full of suffering, in which they fell victim to his fascination with extremist rhetoric, as did many young people, before he died in The battles of “fighting and jihad,” and to find herself alone, she chose to leave ISIS territory in any way, despite the suffering, so that she could raise her children and save them from the stigma of “time bombs” that haunts them and threatens their safety.
She says with great sadness: “Our husbands were deceived and convinced us to come with them, and here we are living in displacement in camps that do not contain anything humanitarian.”
In her exciting dialogue, Amna tells the painful story of Moroccan women stuck in the camps of the Syrian Democratic Forces, known as “SDF,” in Al-Hawl camp in Syria. They face severe suffering and an unknown fate surrounding their children, where they have no hope in life except to return to their country and achieve the dream of completing their journey. Her children’s school, which Amna Hidayatullah started with her two children, Omar and Muhammad, despite the “SDF” militias banning them from phones, she is keen, along with stranded Moroccan women, to teach her children via the Internet, uses Moroccan curricula, and follows the exams that are published through educational groups. .
Amna is keen to study her children so that their level is better, refusing to have her children described as “time bombs” for ISIS, because most of the Moroccan children stuck in Al-Hawl camp, Amna says, are struggling to learn diligently, in the hope that they will return to their country, one day, because they are children. They have legitimate dreams, which they want to achieve away from extremism, militancy and terrorism, as she put it.
Below is the text of the dialogue:
You are one of the Moroccan women stranded in Al-Hawl camp in Syria. What is the story of how you and your husband joined ISIS and how were they recruited?
In the shadows of a comfortable life, the war appeared in Syria, and our daily conversation, concern, and preoccupation became: What is happening there?
Morning and evening, my husband was watching YouTube, especially when the “Islamic Caliphate” was announced in Syria. He was convinced that we must immigrate to Syria…
Every day videos are released, stating that we must join Syria until he lost sleep at night and lost his appetite as well…
In the beginning, the topic was coming to his mind, that he should emigrate only him, but the idea soon changed, that it would be better for me too to go with him through his communication with those who came before him…
How did your husband convince you to accompany him?
He convinced me that if I stayed in Morocco, I would not find anyone to support me and my children, especially my family, whose financial condition is very weak, and first and foremost… I must obey him according to customs and traditions.
Every day he communicated with Syria, they convinced him to hurry and that the road was ready…
How did you leave Morocco?
We left Morocco directly to the first destination, Turkey, as it is on the border with Syria. We were received by young Turkish men and handed over to Turkish smugglers, who would smuggle us to Syria.
All of this was happening hidden from the Turkish authorities, and not as some media claim, that Turkey had a hand in the organization, and the biggest proof is that if our matter or the matter of any of us was revealed, he would be thrown into prison and prosecuted according to Turkish law.
Also, the smuggler smuggles us through empty lands and we run and then come back, and we are afraid of the Turkish military… That is why everything that is promoted that Turkey has a hand in helping us is baseless, and the truth is that Turkish citizens help us only in exchange for money.
How did you live inside Syria?
We lived in Syria for two years in terror, fear, and displacement until my husband was bombed by aircraft and died. Two months later, I left the organization’s territory, but unfortunately I was detained in the camp.
Can you tell us more about the details of the trip to ISIS’ homeland?
Arriving at the homes of ISIS is not through the Turkish authorities, but by Turkish smugglers or by Syrians residing in Turkey in coordination with ISIS. We are received at the border hostel there, and separated from our husbands, so that there is a hostel for men and a hostel for women.
We stay in the border hostel for a few days until we are transferred to the hostel in the city of Raqqa. Here the men are taken to the camps, and the wife remains in the hostel waiting for her husband to leave the camp. If she knows a friend who will come to pick her up from the hostel, she stays with him.
How are missions assigned within ISIS?
The pair is sorted according to their abilities and studies. As we know, there are several different offices with multiple specializations, or he goes to the desert to fight.
I was only a housewife, as I was in Morocco, with limited relationships with people, and because I was staying at home, my encounters with the people in general were few. Our suffering was more than the bombing and displacement from one place to another.
How did you leave ISIS territory in Syria?
My husband died, so I decided to leave ISIS territory. That is why I did not experience the siege of Raqqa or the siege of Baghouz.
What is the atmosphere like living inside Al-Hawl camp and how do you manage to take care of your children?
The conditions in the camp are very difficult in all aspects. Because I have children, I struggle greatly to care for them and supervise their upbringing carefully, due to the difference in nationalities and differences in ideas.
I do not want my children to play in the dirt and mud after the rain, with the remains of iron tents and the remains of worn tent fabric.
The sight is heartbreaking here in Al-Hawl camp, homeless children, and despite all this I do not accept to see my children in this situation. I try to provide games and keep them busy with football as much as possible or going to the “Save the Children” playground.
I find it difficult to teach them. As you know, we do not have schools, and the Kurds also forbid us from being teachers, and phones are also forbidden here. But despite all these difficulties we face, we have great determination to educate our children, hoping that we will return to our country so that they can integrate easily with the students. And the children of the Moroccan people.
Our children have dreams, and they are impatiently waiting for their return to Morocco, so that they can achieve them upon their return.
My son, Omar, born in 2009, studies hard, and I am keen on him, despite his fear that the soldiers will take him to the center. He deprives himself of playing with others, and studies in secret because of the soldiers’ patrols.
Sometimes he studies directly after the dawn prayer, sometimes in the afternoon, and sometimes after the afternoon prayer. He studies according to the situation. In fact, it is as if he is playing a game of “hide and seek” with the Kurdish soldiers monitoring the camp.
His brother, “Muhammad,” also studies hard. He talks to me a lot and asks me, “How are the houses?” What does the dishwasher look like?! What could the surface of buildings be like?! How can I shower while hearing the sound of a sprinkler?! How…how…how? His questions to me make my heart cry blood.
When you sit with “Muhammad,” you will notice his diligence in studying and his eagerness to always get first place. He also always talks about how he is oppressed and knows nothing about the outside world, and always thinks about what his future will be like.
When we read about these child characters, our vision of the children of Al-Hawl camp changes, and that there are many Moroccan children who have dreams and are waiting to be deported to their motherland.
How do you spend your time inside Al-Hawl camp?
Camp means sitting surrounded by an unknown fate!! That’s why I used my time to continue my studies, such as studying the English language, working hard on the French language, and helping the camp children with their education. I spend most of my time with my children, teaching them and developing my academic level as well.
The Internet is a great blessing for those who know how to exploit it to their advantage. In the past, prisoners could only read or study paper books, but now we can develop ourselves for the better through PDF books, watching videos of distinguished professors, and through the pages of educational groups.
Tell us about the difficulties you face as Moroccan women stuck inside Al-Hawl camp?
Our suffering in the camp is countless. There is suffering in terms of living and climate… For example, cold and rainwater enter the tents and wet everything inside the tent. We try as much as possible to prepare for winter by preparing the tents and covering them, but with the intensity of the storms, the tents cannot withstand and may break and then fall on our heads. The family suffers greatly, and I swear to God. The helper.
There is suffering on the part of some deviant women who terrorize the sisters here by beating them with hammers, sharpeners, and knives.
This is the greatest danger to us and to the lives of our children. Here we are always silent, and we cannot reveal that we want to return to our country. This is the greatest danger we face.
What are your demands to the authorities as Moroccan women relations in Al-Hawl camp?
I speak on behalf of every Moroccan woman stuck in Al-Hawl camp. We call on all officials, in both the Royal Court and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, to expedite our deportation to our country, as our children were lost in the “SDF” militia camps without housing, without school, and without security.
All the Al-Hawl camp child knows is that if he turns 12 years old, he will be taken from his mother and thrown into the center. We confirm our request for our return to Morocco, from every father or brother who is jealous of his daughters and sisters.
Do SDF forces allow the media to visit you in Al-Hawl camp?
I am a prisoner in Al-Hawl camp, and whenever I watch the videos of journalists who are approved to enter Al-Hawl camp, I see their goal only to terrorize the world of its women and children.
Any picture is taken from any section and from any camp, whether it is the section for Iraqis, the section for Syrians, or the section for immigrant women, and the pictures of Al-Roj camp are mixed with Al-Hawl camp, and the words and expressions do not match what is shown, and naturally no one will pay attention to the viewer, because no one knows. The camps as we know them and their sections, this is on the one hand.
On the other hand, the goal of most media professionals is to repeat the words we have memorized by accusing our children of time bombs that have no basis in reality.
Here I am talking about Moroccan children specifically. You will not see in any video a Moroccan child talking about violence, or a Moroccan woman repeating slogans indicating that she is a terrorist. On the contrary, whenever we know that there is a press in the camp, we keep our tents so that we do not appear with extremist women or children, or if We faced the press, introducing ourselves and confirming our desire to be returned to our country, Morocco.
How do you explain this insistence on describing your children as “time bombs” for ISIS?
Regarding the insistence of some on accusing the children of Al-Hawl camp of “ticking time bombs,” let everyone know that most of the Moroccan children stuck in Al-Hawl camp are struggling for their education in the hope of returning to their country, to be easily integrated into schools with the children of the Moroccan people.
I inform you that we are here in the camp, and although the militias have banned our phones, we study via the Internet with PDF books, we use Moroccan curricula, we follow the exams that are published through educational groups, and we are keen on studying for our children so that their level will be better, and I always give you an example of “Omar.” And “Muhammad.”
I am very careful not to mix them with extremist children or children who do not want to study. Our children have dreams of becoming some of the greatest doctors and engineers, and they also have a challenge in their lives to prove to the world that they are the best and the best in their ideas and standards.
They also have a great desire to prove to the world that their goal is success and the pursuit of a bright future full of constructive goals.
So tell me, for God’s sake? Will anyone who believes in these dreams and goals be an extremist and a time bomb as they claim? Therefore, I ask God to facilitate our return to our country as soon as possible.
By speaking with you, I want the world, especially Moroccan society and all officials, to understand that we are impatiently awaiting deportation, and that we are innocent of any extremism or extremism.
He deceived our husbands and convinced us to come with them, and here we are living in displacement in camps that do not contain anything humane.