Not just a ‘Kerala story’ – At least 28 Indian women joined IS in 10 years, most met death or imprisonment.
NEW DELHI: Hyderabad-born Zeba Farheen’s dream of going overseas is believed to have started when he was studying at a school in Qatar.
Later, in early December 2014, Zeeba managed to escape and contact her parents. The Indian Embassy in Istanbul arranged for her to return to Doha, Qatar before sending her to India.
Zeba’s dramatic story is contained in a government intelligence document on 133 Indians who traveled to Islamic State (IS) “conflict theaters” or attempted to do so over the past decade.
The list, accessed by ThePrint, has the names and details of a total of 28 women, of whom 22 are from Kerala, while the rest are from Hyderabad, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The Kerala Story, which has created controversy and raked in crores at the box office since its release this month, also includes the names of four women who served as inspirations for the main characters.
While the debate rages on whether the film is propaganda — a stand by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan — or a cautionary tale, ThePrint takes a look at some of the real women who allegedly left India to join IS.
While the government list is sparse on details, it paints a varied profile of these alleged IS migrants.
#TheKeralaStory is not slowing down soon… Hits double digits on [second] Mon, HIGHER than [first] Mon – ₹ 10.03 cr… All set to cross ₹ 150 cr today [second Tue]… [Week 2] Fri 12.35 cr, Sat 19.50 cr, Sun 23.75 cr, Mon 10.30 cr. Total: ₹ 147.04 cr. #India biz. #Boxoffice pic.twitter.com/yJ7V8dpQuV
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) May 16, 2023
A small number have converted from Christianity or Hinduism to Islam, some are mothers, some are widows, some have been killed in conflicts, and others are still detained in countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Most followed their husbands into IS conflict zones but never left, but there were rare exceptions – like Zeba.
Court documents, news coverage and rare media interviews with some of these women add more detail to the picture. One was studying to be a dentist, one had an engineering degree, and many spoke fluent and clear English. Some have cases against them in India, while others have no crime on their records.
It is less likely that someone will be brought back to India – for questioning by intelligence agencies or for reintegration into their families and communities.
A senior intelligence official told ThePrint earlier this year that the government’s view was that there was no “realistic prospect” of convictions and that the “risk of returning trained, battle-hardened jihadists to society was too high”.