Rahma and Ugbad Sadiq packed their school bags
as they did every morning, and left the family home in Kolsås, Norway,
where their parents immigrated in 1996 to escape war in their native
Thursday, December 26, 2013
But by 5 p.m. that day, Oct.
17, the teenage sisters hadn't returned to help prepare dinner. An email
was waiting for the parents in their inbox.
"Papa, we're on our way to Syria. It isn't enough to stay in Norway while Muslim people are in huge trouble. We have to deal with them in their daily life to help them," it said.
Their mother fainted, hitting the floor, her husband,
"It was the beginning of the nightmare for our family," he said in an interview last month.
a time when Syrians are risking their lives to take refuge in countries
such as Norway, there is a reverse migration among some Arab families
such as the Sadiqs who immigrated to Europe to escape hardships in their homelands.
Hundreds of their children are being drawn to Syria, willing to fight and die despite their parents' dreams of a better life in their adopted homes.
In late October, Mr. Sadiq said he took what
little savings he had and flew from Oslo to Antakya in southern Turkey.
He frantically searched every hotel, trying to intercept his daughters
before they crossed into Syria. He spent $2,000 buying information from
rebels, who gave him unhelpful scraps. But it was too late.
weeks of agonizing silence, word finally came in early November in a
text message from a Syrian number: "Papa, we are in danger. You don't
need to come look after us. We will try to solve ourselves. Just go back
to Norway and go back to mama and the others."
lawyer said the sisters probably went to Syria to help suffering
civilians. However, Norwegian authorities said they were with the
Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, one of the most active al Qaeda
offshoots fighting on the rebel side in Syria.
jihadists are flocking to Syria in larger numbers than they have before
in other Middle Eastern wars, authorities said. The Norwegian Defense
Research Establishment, a branch of the country's armed forces,
estimates that more than 1,100 Europeans have joined Islamist militant
groups gaining traction in Syria's civil war.
authorities face a difficult task trying to quell this flow. Security
services have few other tools other than persuasion because it isn't
illegal to join groups linked to al Qaeda or to travel to and fight in
the al Deeb brothers—18-year-old Motassem and 21-year-old Hassan—were
both engaged to be married and finishing their education. Their parents
had moved the family to Borås about eight years ago to escape the severe
poverty in the Lebanese slum of Mankoubeen, which means "those who've
Last summer, they
told their parents they were going to visit relatives in Lebanon.
Instead, they sneaked into Syria. The only message they left behind was a
video announcing their intention to die fighting President
forces, their family said.
younger brother detonated his suicide vest at a checkpoint manned by the
Syrian army in Homs, and his brother died in the ambush that followed
this August, according to the family.
In Mankoubeen, where streets overflow with trash and sewage, their grandfather
proudly showed off a large martyrdom banner for his grandsons. But not everyone in the family was that enthusiastic.
just don't understand why," said Jihad al Deeb, a cousin of the
brothers. "Everyone from Mankoubeen wants a Swedish passport."
Sadiq sisters, too, had access to excellent, free education,
unthinkable in Somalia where finding food and guarding against militants
occupied most of the family's time.
Juma Sadiq's two daughters who left their adopted home in Norway for Syria's civil war.
Rahma, 19, was a talented painter and 16-year-old Ugbad was about to start university to study economics, their father said.
can't understand why they left," he lamented, recalling that growing up
in Somalia, he was a child soldier. "Someone brainwashed my children."
the parents of other children who have fled to Syria, Mr. Sadiq blamed
the local mosque for radicalizing his daughters. He also blamed the
Internet, where impressionable youth have Islamic extremist chat forums
and sleek al Qaeda videos at their fingertips.
the younger daughter, posted tragic scenes of Syrian civilians
suffering on her YouTube account. Some of her other posts hinted at her
struggle to assimilate in Europe. One YouTube post called "The
Psychology of Ho-ology," features a hip young British Muslim named Dawah
Man who wears a New York Yankees baseball cap and links raunchy Western
music videos to premarital sex. Other videos used the word "kafir," or
infidel, frequently when criticizing Western culture and policies.
Mr. Sadiq couldn't be reached for comment after he left Syria. But his lawyer,
relayed his account of what happened next.
and anxious, the father followed his daughters into Syria's
battlefields in November. He found them with a militant group there, the
lawyer said. The father said the rebels held him prisoner for two weeks
and tortured him, according to the lawyer.
younger daughter, Ugbad, had been shot in the leg and badly wounded.
But the rebels wouldn't allow her and her sister to leave with their
father, the lawyer said.
"When he met
his kids, they wept in a mixture of joy and despair," said Mr.
Lippestad. "The oldest daughter grasped his body and wouldn't let go."
Mr. Sadiq is preparing for another trip to Turkey in the coming days to try once again to take his daughters home.