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American women who planned to become ISIS brides and fighters



The State Department announced on Wednesday that a US-born woman who left Alabama to join the Islamic State would not be welcomed home. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Hoda Muthana “does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States.”

But she’s not the only American woman who has traveled to Syria further the ISIS cause. Muthana is one of hundreds of Americans who have attempted to join the Islamic state and other radical Islamist groups, according to a recent report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Of the 300 attempts, the report names 72 Americans who have successfully traveled to Syria or Iraq and joined ISIS and other jihadist groups since 2011. Just 12% of the travelers have been women.

In recent weeks, several women from across the world who are now living in Syrian refugee camps have identified themselves as ISIS brides, asking to return home to the US, Europe, and Canada.

Audrey Alexander, the author of the GWU Program in Extremism’s report “Cruel Intentions: Female Jihadists in America,” told INSIDER that while many of the women have different motivations for joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, many marry ISIS fighters for safety and security while building the Islamic State.

Read more: ISIS brides from Canada, the US, and Europe are asking to return home years after fleeing for Syria. Here are their stories.

“Once you’re in ISIS-controlled territory, being married brings you security, money, goods, status, and treatment. So there are real incentives to be married while you’re there,” she said, adding that being married is one of many auxiliary roles many women have in the society, like raising children and running social media pages.

“What women want to do there, and what the mission is, is to create an Islamic State,” Alexander said. “And women’s roles in that is to serve in a domestic role in some capacity, but it’s really a broader state building effort, an experiment in so many ways.”

Alexander’s report profiles several women who moved or attempted to move from the US to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Some of the women moved to the countries with their husbands, while others went alone.

At least one woman has died, two have been sent to jail, one is begging to return to the US, and the whereabouts of others remain unknown.

Here are some women’s stories.

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