The parents of Aqsa Mahmood today reveal how their daughter was brainwashed and stolen from them by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS).
AhlulBayt News Agency - The parents of Aqsa Mahmood today reveal how their daughter was brainwashed and stolen from them by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS).
Muzaffar and Khalida Mahmood told of their horror after discovering the teenager was being groomed for jihad by fanatic Adeel Ulhaq.
They spoke of their despair after she secretly left Scotland to travel to Syria and their dismay when, after immediately calling the police, official delays lost any chance of intercepting her.
Her mum Khalida says the night her daughter left was the worst of her life.
She said: “I never slept. I never died but I felt as though I was dying. My children, my in-laws, my husband, every one of us, cried through the night.
“My baby had gone and nobody was doing anything to stop it.”
The couple told how they discovered Ulhaq, 21, had been secretly grooming their daughter
for jihad and revealed a dramatic showdown with the radical Islamist and his family after Aqsa ran away from home to marry him.
Muzaffar, 52, and Khalida, 45, spoke out after Ulhaq was jailed for six years for recruiting Aseel Multhana to IS and helping him to travel to Syria.
His trial with two other men at the Old Bailey heard he had also radicalised Mahmood while still a teenage schoolgirl and that the pair had planned to marry.
Her parents described a devastating sequence of events which started when Khalida found a suspicious text in May 2013 and ended six months later when their daughter suddenly fled to Aleppo via Turkey.
And, in their first newspaper interview, the couple voiced fears they will never see their daughter
again. Khalida described how a mundane scene in the family home in Glasgow was interrupted when she discovered a disturbing text message on her daughter’s phone.
She said: “I read the text and was shocked as I didn’t know who this boy was. I told my husband as I wondered why he was contacting her.
“My husband then spoke to him on the phone and told him to leave her alone.”
But they now believe the fanatic secretly remained in touch with their daughter, then in her late teens.
Muzaffar told how matters came to a head later that summer leading to confrontation between the two families in an English mosque.
He said: “We had gone to a wedding in Manchester in 2013 but Aqsa stayed at home with her grandparents. My mum phoned and said Aqsa had left home to go and meet this boy’s family. We were in shock as we were on our way back to Glasgow.
“We got the message in a service station near Carlisle and turned round to drive back down south. She had found a note left by Aqsa saying she had left. My mother was in tears.
“I phoned Aqsa but she put the phone down after saying she was safe. My son phoned Adeel because I was too angry to speak to him. He refused to give his address.
“Then his uncle took over the phone and said to meet us in the Central Mosque in Huddersfield.
“When we arrived, Adeel, his mum, dad and uncle and his mother’s sister were there. Aqsa came with them. I didn’t understand why they wanted us to meet in the mosque but now I realise they were desperate for us not to call the police. I wish I had.
“Adeel was only 19 but, with hindsight, we believe he had radicalised her already. It was always his intention to get her over to Syria.”
To their horror, the parents learned Aqsa wanted to marry Adeel.
Muzaffar said: “It was heart-breaking as it was out of the blue. She’d never met him before that day.
“Like any parent, I said, ‘Why would you get married when you don’t know each other? You don’t even have jobs. You have studies to complete – then you can make such life decisions’. She agreed to come home.”
Evidence heard at the Old Bailey trial of Ulhaq and friends Forhad Rahman, 21, and 19-year-old Kristen Brekke revealed that he too had intended to go ahead with the wedding. He only gave up on the idea after Aqsa fled.
Khalida said: “After she came back, Aqsa would cry and say she had made a mistake. But I never had any suspicion she was going to go from this to Syria.
“Then I said to all my children, ‘You will leave your phones in my room after 8pm and get them in the morning.’
“I would check her phone but it gave me no cause for concern. Now I know there were all sorts of ways of accessing social media that I had no clue about.”
Both parents tried to re-establish a normal family life for Mahmood, her brother and two sisters.
Until that point, she had been an academic success during five terms at Craigholme private school before going on to complete a sixth year at Shawlands Academy.
She had begun a course at Glasgow Caledonian University but was beginning to become increasingly
interested in politics.
Khalida said: “She started to talk about Syria. She became very emotional and would cry when she watched the news. I remember after a chemical attack on the news, she burst into tears.
“She became more religiously dressed. I was surprised because it wasn’t a tradition in our family. She wanted to wear a niqab but I said it was a step too far.
“She became more religious but I didn’t think that meant IS. For me, as the mother of a young daughter, it was much better that she was interested in religion rather than partying or boys.
“I now wonder whether this was all her preparation for Syria.”
Then, one day in November 2013, Mahmood did not come home and her parents began to fear the worst.
Muzaffar said: “My wife and I had dropped her at the underground thinking she going to university.
“It was only after five or six o’clock when she hadn’t come home that I got worried. She wasn’t picking up the phone and we started to panic.
“As the night wore on, I got my sister to phone Adeel’s home and spoke to his mother. She told us that Aqsa no longer wanted to stay with us.”
In desperation, Khalida used a number she had for a university friend.
She said: “I told her that unless she told me where my daughter was, I would call the police. After that, she sent me a text to say she had left for Syria.
“My niece called the police and reported her missing but they only sent two uniformed officers around.
“I showed them the texts and, while they were in the house, checks were carried out and they confirmed she had left the country.
“I’m still surprised that, while there was time to stop her in Turkey, it wasn’t taken seriously enough.
“I kept asking them to stop. I said, ‘Bring her home, jail her, do what you have to – at least she will be safe.’
“I still remember their words, ‘She’s over 18, she can go anywhere, we can’t stop her.’ I will spend the rest of my life wishing they had tried. They left after an hour. That night was the worst night of my life.
“Then, the next day at 10am, we were flooded with plain clothes officers. They spent hours taking statements.”
Today, the family have all but given up on seeing Aqsa again. Since fleeing for Syria, they have learned from press reports that she married an IS fighter and has a senior role in the all-female al-Khansa police force in Raqqa. The feared brigade were established by IS to enforce Sharia law.
The family have been horrified by propaganda she posted on her now-deleted Twitter account,
including a poem praising last year’s Tunisian beach massacre in which 38 people were killed.
Ulhaq, Brekke and Rahman were found guilty of the preparation of terrorist acts while Ulhaq was also convicted of a separate charge of funding terrorism.
During the trial, Ulhaq had said he had considered going to Syria to bring Mahmood home and called her an “ex-girlfriend”.
But Muzaffar said: “Adeel is a liar who tried to use my daughter’s name to save himself. He knew she was married in Syria so it was total lies that he was going out to save her.
“Of course we were deeply ashamed but my family were also destroyed by what Aqsa had done.
“There are others like Adeel out there. He got into her brain and many others who we have not heard about.”
Khalida added: “I thought that he should have got a life sentence for what he did to my family and others.
“He’ll be out in a couple of years and his mother will be able to hold him but I will never see my daughter again.”