Pictures of the Ethiopian schoolgirl from London who ran off to join ISIS
Picture: Fifteen-year-old Amira, who was born in Ethiopia, larks around with her friends in the park
By Sue Reid
She laughs in the park, shows off vividly painted nails, and poses with the athletics’ squad of her East
London school, where she was top of her science class.
On Facebook, she writes of going swimming with a friend, loving the music of American rapper Tupac Shakur and enjoying a birthday treat.
Few could have predicted what 15-year-old Amira Abase would do next.
Two weeks ago, in the middle of half-term, she abruptly walked out of her family’s council home in East London, wearing black jeans and trainers.
She caught a bus to Gatwick Airport and flew to Istanbul with two fellow Muslim classmates, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15.
Next — in footage captured by CCTV cameras — the trio waited in the snow to board another bus to travel to the Turkish border with Syria. There, Islamic State militants were waiting for them.
The girls, by now dressed in burkas, were bundled into cars and disappeared to a life where they will have to marry a fighter selected for them, never step foot outside without him, and become a household drone doing chores restricted to women.
Intelligence services say they may even be trained to become fighters themselves.
Amira is not the first Western girl to join Islamic State. Police said this week that 60 young British women, many of them schoolgirls, have left for Syria. Few, however, have been radicalised so swiftly as Amira Abase.
Back in East London, her friends — many of them non-Muslims — have given a series of exclusive interviews to explain how she had changed before their eyes.
As one 16-year-old girl told me this week: ‘She was perfectly normal. She talked about having a lip-piercing one day, and listened to pop chart songs.
‘She was pretty, popular, and a bit of a rebel who saw the funny side of life. I first met her in maths class four years ago. We became best friends.’
Born in Ethiopia, Amira moved with her family first to England, and then Germany, before returning here and starting school at Bethnal Green Academy at the age of 11.
‘When I visited, I found her home was not overpoweringly Islamic,’ her friend added. ‘We had a family meal cooked by her mother, who did not wear the hijab at home. After eating, Amira and I went out to the park.
‘She had a BlackBerry phone at 11 or 12, and later an iPhone and computer. She was on them all the time.’
At school, Amira, a Chelsea football fan, shone in debates, once giving a speech on why Muslim women wear the veil. She passed three GCSEs in maths and science early, at age 14.
This autumn, she’d planned to study A-level history, maths and biology at the London Academy of Excellence, set up for high-fliers under the free school programme.
Her talents did not stop in class. At 13 and 14 she was a star of the school athletics squad, competing across Southern England in the 800 and 1,200 metres.
Off to join ISIS: Amira (centre, circled) caught a bus to Gatwick Airport and flew to Istanbul with two fellow Muslim classmates, Kadiza Sultana (left), 16, and Shamima Begum (right), 15. They are pictured at Gatwick
Although she wore the hijab to class, covering her hair in line with Islamic teachings, she abandoned the headgear when she played sport or was with her girl friends.
A member of the athletics squad explained: ‘Amira didn’t make a big thing about her Muslim faith. She came to parties if there was no alcohol, and we’d go shopping for clothes. She was one of us.
She talked about having a lip-piercing one day, and listened to pop chart songs. She was pretty, popular, and a bit of a rebel who saw the funny side of life
‘She got friendly with a boy she met at athletics. We teased her about standing very close to him, so she joked she was leaning on him for support. Her parents would not have approved of a boyfriend.’
Yet last year Amira was exposed to a parallel world from her non-Muslim friends.
While they were going clubbing, meeting boyfriends, and taking foreign holidays together, these Western ways were forbidden to Amira because of her background.
She was expected to pray regularly, and was, her friends think, facing an arranged marriage to a man of her family’s choice in the future.
Another friend said: ‘We suspect she joined ISIS because it was exciting thing to do; a way of rebelling. Unlike us, there were not a lot of exciting options open to her.’
By the time of her 15th birthday in May last year, Amira had become a ‘different person’.
She cut herself off from her ‘clique’ of non-Muslim friends, and mixed instead with two other Muslim girls in the same school year group: Kadiza and Shamima, who, of course, are now with her in Syria.
Her old school friends said they were shocked when she sent them a video link claiming that Israelis were deliberately burning Palestinian children.
‘It was horrifying because it showed babies being hurt. I deleted it,’ admitted one.
Amira and her two Muslim friends were overheard using derogatory terms for non-Muslim girls, calling one a ‘slag’ and others ‘kafir’ (an Arabic term for non-believer).
‘She was getting into religion and Middle Eastern affairs seriously. She hung around with these two Muslim girls all the time,’ said her friend.
We now know that one of those girls, Shamima, used her Twitter account to contact a former medical student, 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, who left Glasgow last year to join ISIS and marry a jihadist.
Shamima was following 70 other ISIS terrorists on Twitter, too, many of whom, like Aqsa, used a messaging programme called Surespot.
This encrypts messages to avoid interception by intelligence authorities. When messages are deleted by ISIS recruiters, they are automatically erased from the phones of those who have received them.
Amira is portrayed by police and the school as naïve and vulnerable. But she was savvy and intelligent, and used to getting what she wanted
Friends suspect that Amira and the other girls were in touch with Aqsa and other ISIS recruiters via their mobile phones or home computers since before Christmas.
‘Amira is portrayed by police and the school as naïve and vulnerable,’ said one of her friends. ‘But she was savvy and intelligent, and used to getting what she wanted.’
Police were called to Bethnal Green Academy in December after a friend of Amira’s, a Muslim girl of 15 who has not been named, disappeared to Syria.
They talked to Amira and her two new friends, but concluded they were not being groomed by ISIS online recruiters.
Yet one of Amira’s friends insists: ‘By the time the police came, Amira had isolated herself from non-Muslim pupils. I am surprised the police did not discover she was already fascinated with the Islamic State and people like Jihadi John.’
Amira left her family home in the morning of Tuesday, February 17, telling her father she was going to a wedding. He believed her.
She was carrying no luggage, although CCTV shows her and the other girls at Gatwick before boarding a flight with heavy holdalls.
Who gave them the bags? Was it an on-the-ground ISIS recruiter in London? The question has not yet been answered. The bags contained the Islamic robes and coats with hoods that the girls were wearing by the time they reached Istanbul.
By late morning on the Tuesday, Amira had texted her father, 47-year-old Abase Hussen, who thought his daughter was at the wedding.
She said it was ‘a little bit far’, and added: ‘Daddy, I will pray my midday prayer and get back home.’
At midnight, the family reported Amira missing and were desperately messaging her school friends to see if she was with them.
One of her old friends admits now: ‘I was getting worried about her. She told girls in school that she agreed with what the Islamic State was doing in Syria.
‘I feel that I have lost my friend for ever.’
She is probably right.
Pictures of the Ethiopian schoolgirl from London who ran off to join ISIS Reviewed by Admin on 12:19 AM Rating: