Sunday, 1 February 2015

Hyderabadi expat girl in Qatar travels to Turkey, returns before joining IS

Update: The woman has been identified in an India Today article as Zeba Farheen.

Hyderabad:  A young Indian woman living in Qatar, Doha who wanted to join the Islamic State group in Turkey has returned to her parents' house in Hyderabad, Police Commissioner M Mahender Reddy told NDTV.

The girl, around 18-years-old (also reported as 19 years old), was reportedly influenced by the Islamic State literature available online and also by a neighbour in Doha who wanted to accompany her, but the girl changed her mind and returned to India.

The police clarified that they had no participation in bringing the girl back and that she refuted the idea on her own.
"The incident happened around two months ago. We have not brought her (back to India) she came back on her own," said the city police commissioner.

The girl was not placed under arrest as she had not joined the Islamic State - also known as IS or ISIS - or any other extremist training said the police.

The police did however reach out to the girl and her parents to offer counseling after they came to know that she had been influenced by the content provided by the Islamic State group online. This, they said, was a part of a police strategy to deal with people, especially the youth, who access such sites.

"Here in Hyderabad, we are actually scanning all the social networking sites. For whoever accesses this kind of literature (ISIS propaganda) on the social networking sites, we are getting in touch with them and talking to them and their parents," said Mr Reddy.

The Police Commissioner also warned that strict action could be taken against those who are unfazed by counselling and other methods of persuasion and get in touch with the organisation.

"As a law enforcing agency we want to involve the community, parents and the youth. So far, we have been successful. If anybody is trying to cross the 'laxman-rekha' then law will definitely take its own course," Mr Reddy said.

Another senior police officer attached to Intelligence alleged that there was a deliberate attempt to create an impression that many young people from Hyderabad are being influenced by the Islamic State.

''Union Home Ministry has said that there is such a propaganda war to malign Hyderabad and Telangana,'' he said.

'Baseless rumours'

Initial reports said that she had made it to ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria and got disillusioned with its ideology after being employed as a cook. However, police dismissed the reports as baseless. "She did not even make it to Iraq or Syria," Hyderabad police commissioner M Mahender Reddy said here on Saturday.

The girl, along with her family had moved to Doha in Qatar from Hyderabad about 10 years ago. She is also reported as having lived in Qatar since she was 2 years old, with her parents, a sister and two brothers. Her father is a software engineer in the Gulf country.

According to details obtained from her, the girl came in contact with a 29-year-old Yemeni woman, Amani Abdul, through a Malayali acquaintance just after she completed schooling in Doha in May 2014. Abdul was a nurse at Hamad Hospital in Doha and was pursuing her masters in nursing.
The girl started giving English tuitions to Abdul, who stayed on the outskirts of Doha, in Umm Salal. According to the police records, Abdul gave the girl several expensive gifts such as cell phones and laptop, and also went around Doha with her, and the two developed a strong friendship. The girl taught Abdul English, while the Yemeni nurse tutored her in Islamic fanaticism. Abdul would often tell the minor girl about the Syrian crisis and atrocities against Muslims around the world. There were also regular WhatsApp messages on similar themes.
According to the statements given by her, the girl was brainwashed by Abdul to travel to Syria to help refugees, not to really join the Islamic State. It is a claim that Indian agencies are not convinced of.
Indian officials insist that the 17-year-old Indian girl, who had a miraculous escape from the possible clutches of the Islamic State, had been to Syria, though she denies it.
The girl is said to have landed in Istanbul on October 24, 2014 with the 29-year-old Yemeni woman, Amani Abdul, who had befriended her in Doha.
From Istanbul, they took a flight to another city, where they were received by two Turkish women. They drove for another seven hours or so to a new place, according to what the girl told her interrogators in Hyderabad.
Captive for 20 days
The girl claimed that she was kept captive in a house in the town for at least 20 days. The girl insisted that she did not go to Syria. However, mobile details of her mother revealed that the daughter was probably in Syria, because in messages stored in her mother’s mobile there was repeated reference to Sham (Syria).
According to the girl, in the first week of December, she escaped from captivity in the middle of the night and took refuge with some Turkish families. The next day, she reached the local airport, from where she contacted her parents who probably alerted the Turkish authorities.
According to officials, the Turkish authorities alerted the Indian embassy in Ankara after the girl was brought to a detention centre in Istanbul. The embassy put her on a flight to Doha, but on reaching the airport she was denied entry to Qatar because she had been blacklisted by the authorities.
The girl waited out at the airport for her mother to join her, and both took the flight out to Hyderabad, where they arrived on the early morning of December 20. 

"While she was living in Qatar, a female neighbour lured her towards IS. Together, they tried to go to Iraq but went till Turkey and then returned to Qatar for unknown reasons. This incident took place two months ago,'' the commissioner said.

Officials said that the girl's companion in Qatar was a Turkey national (a Yemeni national according to The Hindu) and they came to know each other through a social networking site.

"The girl came under the influence of her neighbour and both used to surf the web extensively for IS material. Soon, the teenager developed a soft corner for the terror group and made up her mind to go to Iraq,'' an official said.

However she travelled to Turkey instead here where she had a change of heart.

6 attempts foiled in 2014

Last year, Hyderabad Police had foiled "attempts" by six youths from Hyderabad, including a former Google employee, who were allegedly plotting to join the Islamic State ranks after getting attracted to ISIS propaganda on social networking sites.

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