Why do young people decide to leave their home country?

It is estimated that more than 5000 young people have left European countries to join the Caliphate during the past few years.
In their first assignment the students are writing fictional stories about people who have decided to leave for the Caliphate. The short stories are written either in first person or from the perspective of a friend or family member.

Athénée Maurice Destenay, Liege, Belgium

Letter to my friend

Mounia I did not expect this from you: we were deeply in touch. But the worst thing is that I didn’t notice any sign of radicalization.

I can’t understand what got into your head… Yet, you were always against those people who kill in the name of God, In the name of Islam. Imagine the surprise when I learned that you were in contact with this place for months now. After all I cannot judge you because I don’t know what got into you head, but I know that you were a victim of social media. I can’t even be mad at you because it is also my fault that I didn’t notice anything: you behavior didn’t change, you were the same Mounia, you were the same joyful person, cheerful, you did not isolate yourself like the others who decide to go to jihad.
I don’t know what to say to convince you to come back, I want to tell that I miss all the laughter we had together, I miss everything about you, even your childlessness. I want to tell about your family: since you’ve left home, your mother doesn’t smile anymore, she thinks about you all the time, she is terrified that you will never come back, she blames herself. Your father doesn’t leave your room, he became very anxious. If you were to see him you wouldn’t recognize him: he no longer has the joy of living. Regarding Dounia, she can’t stop crying: she misses you a lot; and lastly, Bouthaina, she is putting an act, she is pretending that she is not affected but we all know that it is just shell that she created to cope with your departure.

I KNOW THAT ONCE YOU ARE THERE YOU WILL REGRET YOUR DECISION, it is not a place for you… you are not like them

I hope that you will soon come back, we miss a lot.

A lot of kisses from me.

Athénée Maurice Destenay, Liege, Belgium

Letter to my friend

Hello Mounia, it’s me Ayoub. Your old friend.

2 days ago, I was informed of your departure to Daesh, I thought I was dreaming when they reported to me the news, I never thought you would ever be able to do this. I know that you were feeling bad about your life, that you were insecure. Your cousin told me everything today, I was in tears when she told me about what you endured during these 3 years; you don’t deserve any of this, but you could’ve talked to me so that we can find a solution , you know that I would have listened to you even though it has been 2 years since we’ve been in contact, I’ve told that I will always be there for you despite our distant relationship, I’ve told you that I will always cheer you up when you are feeling bad… but you chose to confide in a man that you never knew, someone who was hiding behind an account and who succeeded to manipulate you, I never thought you would be this gullible and naive. What happened to the Mounia I knew? I know that people change but not to this extent.

Open your eyes please, it is not the ”Dream life” you expect, the guy whom you trust and to whole you tell everything in Facebook and whom you will supposedly marry. Listen to me, I joined you to Istanbul to get you back, you cannot leave; it is war there, you will be raped, tortured and forced to marry a man, the one with whom you talked in Facebook is just a scouter for Daesh, his job is to manipulate people so that they will join Daesh. Everything he told you is a lie, please come back. You won’t find Islam, it is not Islam and they are not considered as muslims because their behavior is not related to this religion. Muslims do not kill or blow up innocent people.

Come back to your family, friends… just believe that everything has an end, because this life is short-lived, it is ephemeral.

Join me to the town center if you change your mind, before it is too late.

I MISS YOU moumou!!

Athénée Maurice Destenay, Liege, Belgium

Letter to my mom

Hello Dear mom,
I’m writing you this letter in order to announce my departure. Yes, indeed you read it right: my Departure! Goodbye, farewell and see you soon. I am going to Iraq with my brothers, I want to be nearer to the Almighty, God. I want to do the right thing and fight by their side, to protect little children. Yes, mom, I want to help people, to save them until I die as a martyre. I will keep a place for you in heaven so that we can all be together.

I finally realized why I don’t belong to this place, because it was there. I eventually apprehended the meaning of life, of my life. It is regretful that you cannot come with me … you will never know my children (or your grandchildren), you will not attend my wedding … you won’t even meet my husband and you will never experience this “pure” place.

I know that you think this is crazy… But you know what… you are crazy! By going there, I’m saving you from hell!!!!

Trust me mom, I know what I’m doing. Don’t worry about me, everything is going to be okay. Try not to harm yourself and do not listen to the media because all they do is mispresenting reality as they see fit.

Our brothers are not killers, they are the saviours, they are not full of hate, but of God’s love… there is no hell here but the road to heaven, and I therefore belong to them, whether you like it or not. Here are my last words addressed to you: Allah Akbar.

Ås vgs, Ås, Norway

Letter to my friend

I guess you can never really know a person. All of an sudden they become a stranger. I remember it as it was yesterday, the day my best friend become a monster. The worst thing is that I never saw it coming. He just flipped one day.
It all started as a normal day, I woke up and went to school. As always, I met Muhammed at the entrance of the school and then we walked together to class. Okay, I can admit that he was a bit distant that day. But how could I have known?
After first period, he disappeared. Everyone just went on with their day, not even noticing that he was gone. Then I heard a dreadful scream, and for a second the whole class froze. Then we all ran out to see what all the fuzz was about. As we run we hear more screams and sobbing. I force myself threw the crowd and a dreadful sight meets me. Fahtima, Muhammed´s ex lies covered in blood. She lies almost lifeless on the ground, and I can hear sirens in the distance.
No one ever heard from him again, even though the police were investigating him for the death of Fahtima. But they found proof that he was a part of a radicalistic group, and his belongings were gone.
I guess you can never really know a person, and this person is not my best friend

Hakadal ungdomsskole, Hakadal, Norway

Letter to my brother

Dear brother

I know it has been wile sins I made contact last time, but I think I am starting to lose my mind. I need someone to talk to. I did not chose you only because I miss you, but also because the people around here is starting to have bad influence on me and won’t listen to me. They are starting to be violent with the civil people around here. I do not like that… I deserve to have the gun pointed at me and not to be the one who is pointing the gun. I made the wrong chose leaving you.
Already one year after I left, I joined the army. They call them self IS. It I apparently a nation who is fighting fore there rights. I do not think so… I think they are trying to take over the world or something…

On the bright side I have made a lot of new friends. I really like them… On the not so good side is there behavior to the people. Last week I tried to stop one of them by doing something they will regret. It ended with him shooting the gay in the leg before finishing of with his head.
I thought I was making the right choose coming here. I was wrong… I have been asking fore like a year now if I can come back home to you, but hey just keep saying no, no, no… I no not like this place at all. I just wont to go home. But I can’t…

By now you are probably wondering, why now. Why making contact now. The Short answer is because I need help… And I think you can help me.

Hakadal ungdomsskole, Hakadal, Norway

Diary Entry

June 2012
Dear mom
I need advices on what to do with Zarah.

A year ago she wore the same clothes as her norwegian classmates. Went to parties, swam with her friends, had fun. But when I look at her now it is a complete different girl. The niqab covers her face. At this point, you can only see her eyes. Her behavior has changed in such a short time. She doesn’t appreciate having fun with her friends anymore. She will rather sit at home and pray to Allah. Suddenly, violence and killing people to prove your belief is right. What ISIS does to people, both adults and children, is right.

I know this is a bad sign, but what am I supposed to do? She is 18. An adult. I can’t affect her opinions. Radicalization is a huge problem. What if she joins ISIS?

August 2012
Dear mom
Zarah is gone. I don’t know when or where, but she is gone. She told me she was going to a party. I was delighted. Finally, my girl is back! I was wrong. When I woke up this morning, I found a note next to her bed. This is what she wrote: “Dear father. I love you. You have always told me to follow my dreams, and do what feels right for me. This is what feels right. I have decided to join ISIS. Bismillah. I know it will take some time, but I hope you will understand my choice. Zarah”

It is all my fault. I could have stopped her. Everything is my fault. Parents are supposed to watch out for their children, and I have failed. I don’t know what will happen to her. Death is a possibility. I don’t want to think about it. I would much rather have her at home. I hope Allah will protect her.

Hakadal ungdomsskole, Hakadal, Norway

He went to fight for ISIS

I woke up early by the sound of my mom crying. She never cries. I have only heard her cry once. That was when my dad left us, and went to fight for ISIS. That was a year ago, and I remember that my brother sat with her and comforted her. I didn’t care that much when my dad left. He didn’t care much about me either.

I walked out to the living room, and sat down beside my mom. She tried to wipe away her tears, but they kept coming. I asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t answer. She wanted, but she couldn’t. However she pointed at a sheet. It was a letter. I looked at the letter, and I suddenly understood what had happened.

Dear mom and Fatima.
I had to leave. I couldn’t sit here anymore and look at my people die. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you before, but I couldn’t take the risk that you could stop me. You don’t need to call or text me. I won’t answer, and I won’t come back either. I’m doing what is right for me. Violence will not exist after ISIS have taken over. I promise you that I will survive, and that I will live a good life in ISIS.
Love from Abbad

I read the sentence “I promise you that I will survive” over and over again. Maybe he would live a few more weeks, but for me he was already dead.

NES vgs, Arnes, Norway

Bullet Holes

How are things. Isn’t it your day off today? What are you up to? Hope you are being careful on that bike and following mamas health and safety instructions! Any news about that girl that had been suggested to you? Miss and love you loads. XXX

It’s been two weeks, three hours and 45 minutes since I got that text. Five days, 1 hour and 30 minutes since I was sent on a mission. 1 day and 15 minutes since I was shot. I’m bleeding from a myriad of places, blood seeping out into my clothes and to the dirty ground. I could never handle the sight of blood as a child, my mother would always have to help me cover it up. My mother, my life. I’m alone now, just like I was a year ago. My mind is where it was a year ago as well, with no answers, and all alone.

I remember the day mom and dad split up, so fresh in my memory like the open wounds on my arm. The confusion had sept into me, and I became unsure, both in myself and others. It left me vulnerable, and I started looking for answers in places I would never look before. I found them, my answers, but they were mixed with lies and thoughts so cruel that my former self would go running in fear. Not that it mattered then, because I was found. I got a new family, those who would call me brother, listen to my pain, and laugh at my jokes. It was perfect. I wanted to be perfect as well.

It didn’t take long for my new brothers to plant thoughts about traveling to the kalifate in my head. They told me stories of a fair community with no discrimination, and living in the name of Allah. There were people there, women and children, who needed to be protected. I always cared about other people, and I started caring about those women and children as well. If I didn’t protect them, who would? I had found my call. My role in Allah’s plan. But it didn’t last long.

Seeds of doubt started forming in my mind right before I left on my mission. I even called my family, talking to my sisters and saying: “If I’m wrong about this, pray to God that they’ll guide me away from it”. A little laugh escapes my lips as I think about it now. Maybe this is Allah’s will. For every bullet I put in others, a bullet will be put in me? I never meant to end up like this. I never meant to hurt you, mom. I never meant to hurt anyone. Please don’t let anyone do the same mistake as I did. Protect them, in a way I could never do.

IGS Franzsches Felde, Braunschweig, Germany

Diary Entry

[4th January 2017]
Dear Diary,
yes I know I talked a lot about Aylin in the last few months, but now I’m very scared about her and how she has changed. Her boyfriend is so weird, because of him she is wearing a headscarf..

[3rd March 2017]
Dear Diary,
I’m so shocked!! She is gone!! Her mum called me today and told me that she flew with her boyfriend to Afghanistan to join the Caliphate. I can’t believe it. How could it come to this? I just wanted the best for her and this is definitely not the best!

[5th March 2017]
Dear Diary,
she called me today. I’m so relieved, she told me that she’s doing fine. I cried and told her that I’m missing her and that she has to come back but she was so cold to me. And this really hurts me..

BBS Fredenberg, Braunschweig, Germany

My history of radicalisation

I, Markus Weber, report to you today about my wife Sabine Weber, who has decided to radicalise.

I have seen my wife as a very happy and open person, until the day she disappeared. I was hardly home because I had a very good job as a lawyer and was on the road a lot. My wife took care of our 4 children, who are already grown up and are on their own feet. She did not graduate because she got our children early. That is why she was at home all day and took care of the household.

She did not feel bad about herself. I did not realize how much she had retired and felt unaffected. I thought she was satisfied with what she had, but she was not. I as a husband should have noticed how excluded she felt from the world. I often asked myself how she came to such a thing and where she got all this information from. My youngest daughter, who was still living at home, told me that my wife had come upon it by chance. She was like every Tuesday in the city and bought for home. On the way home from shopping, she came across two young women, who were holding a flyer in their hand. “The spark was lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to rise intensely – with Allah’s permission – until the crusader’s arms Dadiq is burning “. She took the flyer and went home. At home she sat down at the PC and began to search. She has found many information and ways out. After a long search, she came across a chatroom where people who felt the same way as they were. She felt understood and connected with these people. After a long letter, she decided to convert to Islam, because she gave this religion support, security and protection. I do not know how she managed to get away and leave her family here alone.

My wife Sabine has already disappeared for almost four years and we have not heard from her until today. We do not know whether she is alive or whether she is doing well and we do not understand what is going on in her head. My children and I just hope that she is doing well and she is now happier than she was with us. In spite of all this, we will never give up hope of seeing her again and will continue to look for her.

In my eyes, radicalized people are completely blind to reality.
This was my story about my radicalized wife, Sabine Webe

IGS Volkmaroda, Braunschweig, Germany

Ben Emam

My best friend is Ben. I know him already since we were quite small and played in the sandpit. He never had big problems at school, in other respects, he was liked very much. However, when he became older he withdrew more and more into his own world. He went the week to the Abu Bakr mosque several times. I have tried to talk with him and to show him that what he does does not make it right, however, he listens to no one. It became worse and worse. After two years I withdrew myself from him, because first I might not meet him any more and secondly I simply could not talk to him and persuade him that all of this is a mistake. Then three years I have heard nothing more of him and the family also knew nothing. Until he appeared all at once again and apologised for he was so blind. Today he is 27 years old and an economic information scientist. I am very proud of him he developed so well.

Gymnasium Hoffman-von-Fallersleben, Braunschweig, Germany

Report about Safia S.

Safia has always been a Islam shaped girl, but very nice and open for other religions and opinions. That is what I always admired about her, so we became good friends. We could talk about anything and spend a lot of time together. It was fun, until she distanced herself from me and other people in her environment. First we did not take it that serious because we thought she might need time for processing something private. We did not want to put pressure on her. However she became more closed and her Islamic view dominated her actions. Safia did not accepted the European lifestyle any further and sometimes reacted aggressively. Hearing about the actions she did last year shocked us. It is really a pity that such a great girl has been influenced by bad people through the internet. I hope that she gets well and I can get my lovely friend back.

Liceo Ulivi di Parma, Parma, Italy

My best friend Betty

I want to tell you a story, a story about love, passion and religion. Betty is my best friend, like in the whole world and she fell in love with Aamir, an arab boy. This story is the typical one, a story about two guys that met at the beach, like in Grease style. Aamir loved and love Betty with all his heart but he couldn’t be with her until she decided to converte to his religion. In this way, through various plays, questions and uncertainties she has chosen love, so she had converted herself. Of course it wasn’t so easy for her but she found a new world that she’s still descovering and falling in love with. When she asked me what to do i was confused, but I suggest her to do what make she happy. She was happy, and in love, as well as him, and that was all i need to know. In this way i said yes, and she followed my advide.
Guys choose to go for many reasons: love, family, work, money and all of these are good if all of these decision are good enough for us, for our heart and mind.

Hervormd Lyceum West, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Salih Yahya Gazali Yilmaz

Name: Salih Yahya Gazali Yilmaz. (Male)
Age: 28
Salih Yahya G Yilmaz died in an air strike in Syria. Yilmaz became known as the ‘kapsalon’ jihadist. Yilmaz said in a tv series that his mother also missed, he missed the ‘kapsalon’, the typical Dutch fat snack. Not that he ever expected he would return to the Netherlands alive. Yilmaz served in the Turkish and the Dutch army. He joined in 2013 with the opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Last year he arrived at IS, where he trained under multiple British rebels.

MLA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My best friend Naima

I wrote this in the perspective of her best friend.
I knew Naima my whole life, we went to Elementary School together. We where best friends and shared each other’s secrets, and we respected each others religion. But when we went to High School together things changed. She started to wear a headscarf, which was strange because she grew up in a very modern muslim family, and nobody in her family wore a headscarf. I couldn’t imagine that she would ever wear a headscarf until I saw her get picked up by a big black car after school. I noticed that every monday, wednesday and thursday she got picked up by the same black car. I kept asking her why she started wearing a headscarf and why she got picked up by a black car but she couldn’t answer that. One day I went to class and I didn’t saw Naima anywhere, which was very weird because if she was sick I would’ve known because she would text me before school. The following days Naima didn’t came to school, I didn’t knew what was going on until I heard that she joined the IS.
I hope she can find a way out.

MLA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My sister

I wrote this story in the perspective of her sister
My family is muslim. My sister and i both grew up in a very modern muslim family, nobody wore a headscarf or went to the moskee. One day my sister and i were making our self ready for school when i saw my sister wearing a headscarf. I asked her why but she couldn’t answer that, so I asked my parents. They said they didn’t wantrd me to know. That moment felt very weard and unpleasend for me. After school I came home and noticed my mother was also wearing a headscarf. I asked her why but again, she couldn’t awnser that. I started screaming “WHY CAN YOU ALL NOT TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I ran into my room and cried myself in sleep. The next day I woke up, went to the kitchen and noticed something. My mother and sister were gone. My Father said they went to irak. I ask him way and he sadly said with tears in his eyes they joined the caliphate. I have never been so disappointed in my life. I hope everything is going to be okay and that they get back soon.

MLA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My son

I’m going to write this story in the perspective of his father.
My son has got ADHD and took medication for that.
because of his ADHD he was easy to influence. In Leiden (The Netherlands) he met criminals who were threatening him. The police couldn’t help him, so I send him away to Belgium where my family lives. There he radicalized more and within 2 months he left to Turkey. My son stayed for 2 weeks at the borderline of Syria. He was stopped 2 times by the police, but he never went back to The Netherlands. Everyone knew my son left, but no one did something! I think my son will never come back home. I’m very sad, but I have to move on with my live. I will be there for my other kids.
I don’t have any advice because I have no idea what I have to say. I hope for him that he isn’t dead.

Liceo Ulivi di Parma, Parma, Italy

My friend Aziz

I wanna talk about one of my closest friends, his name’s Aziz. He was born here like me and we’ve known each other since we were 10, two months ago he began to talk about “jihad” but I had no idea of what he was talking about, then he explained me and I understood that something was wrong with him, he started meeting strange people, avoiding me and doing strange things. Five days ago I received a massage from his mother which told me that he left for Aleppo, Syria with his sister. Since then we’ve no tidings about them.