Woman whose husband became ISIS propagandist reveals why she became interested in jihad

Tania Joya (Facebook)

The incredible journey of Tania Joya, a British-born Bangladeshi woman who married a Texas man who moved with Joya to Syria and later became ISIS’s leading producer of English-language propaganda, began when she was a disaffected teenager who had never “been proud of anything” until she found religion.

Speaking with Abigail Pesta, a frequent Women in the World contributor, for a profile in TexasMonthly, Joya said that while growing up in a London suburb, she had dealt with people breaking the windows of her family’s house and fellow students calling her “darkie” and “Paki.” Her Muslim relatives, meanwhile, would shame her for going out “with bare arms.” Eventually, she said, she found friends in a group of devout and conservative Muslims. She began to pray, and even to wear a jilbab, an Islamic robe, “to prove that I’m not ashamed of who I am.”

At age 19, she met a young American convert to Islam, who had changed his name from John to Yahya al-Bahrumi, on a Muslim matrimonial site. He courted her, and the two bonded over a growing interest in Jihad. Within months they were married.

Years later, in 2011, with her third son on the way, the couple moved to Egypt, only to flee the country after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood candidate President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military. They fled to Turkey in August 2013, and an increasingly concerned Joya began arguing with her husband as he repeatedly insisted they travel to Syria to help in the civil war.

By this point, Joya said, she had lost interest in Jihad — she wanted a safe place to look after and raise their children. But he tricked her into boarding a bus into Syria, and soon they were staying in a building with blown out windows and no electricity, while her husband made contacts among the rebels who would go on to form the Islamic State. Yahya, six months pregnant with her fourth child, begged him to take them to the airport. Instead, he told her if she wanted to go back she’d have to go herself. After a dangerous escape back into Turkey, Joya would find her way back to London, and then to Texas.

“I want to help people avoid this fate,” Joya told Pesta. “I believe prevention is the most humane way to counter terrorism.”

Speaking with Pesta, Joya reflected on how religion conditions women to behave, her husband’s dangerous activities, and the new journey she’s embarking on in America.

Read the full story at TexasMonthly.


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