Kurdish special forces rescued a 16-year-old Swedish girl who had been held in Iraq against her will by ISIS, Reuters is reporting.
The semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan announced Tuesday that special forces had rescued a Swedish national, 16-year-old Marlin Stivani Nivarlain, from ISIS captivity near Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) released a statement on Twitter “calling on Swedish authorities and her family to help rescue her” from the heavy fighting. Nivarlian has been identified as a teenager from Borås, east of Gothenburg.
— KR Security Council (@KRSCPress) February 23, 2016
Nivarlian is believed to have run away to Syria with her boyfriend when she got pregnant. According to Reuters, she was captured by ISIS in Aleppo, a city in Northern Syria, before being moved into Iraqi territory.
The Swedish government has yet to make a comment, saying they have not received any information about one of their nationals holed up in Iraq.
It remains unclear how the Swedish teenager who was rescued by the Kurds ended up in Mosul. ISIS continues to recruit hundreds of fighters from Europe who in turn strike up online relationships with naïve young girls, wooing them to come and live and love in ISIS territory.
This has become a familiar story — these girls, some as young as 15, are often from middle-class backgrounds and hide their radicalization from their families. The phenomenon has been dubbed “bedroom jihad” because these girls are usually lured via online conversations from the confines of their bedrooms to the dangerous war zones of Syria and Iraq.
They are poster girls for ISIS and told to boast about their lives, posing with weapons and sharing words of advice to wanna-be jihadi brides. They appear to live the life and enjoy the extremism and violence of their new home, like Asqa Mahmoud, 20, a student from Glasgow, Scotland, who traveled to Syria to marry an ISIS jihadi. “Follow the examples of your brothers from Texas, Boston, and Woolwich. If you cannot make it to the battlefield, then bring the battlefield to yourself,” she tweeted under the name Umm Layth.
— bryn curt Hammond (@miamifoxmedia) June 29, 2015
ISIS won’t let anyone hear the pleas of the scores of girls who arrive and realize they have made a dreadful mistake and want to return home. These girls are hardly seen, and do not post on social media about their regrets. Abdullah, an aid worker from Turkey who spent six months in Syria, recalls meeting a British girl, 16, who asked for help to get her and a friend out.
“She was very dispirited. I need you to help me get out.”
However, leaving ISIS territory is considered an abomination. Women cannot move around without a male accompanying them, and all single women are housed in a single building. Their worst fears are usually being raped or forced to marry someone against their will. Passports are always confiscated upon arrival. “Areas run by the Islamic State are like an iron dome. There are checkpoints all over, no one gets in or out without proper reason” Abdullah said.
The British girl and her friend managed to escape with the help of Abdullah from ISIS territory. But he says he was contacted by more than 10 girls who wanted out.
“It became a big issue. But I am just one guy; imagine how many more cases are out there. These girls are young, naïve and impulsive. They are fed up with life in the West and social media makes ISIS look like the life they want to live.”
Peshmerga troops, the Kurdish military force, have been one of the most effective combatants of ISIS on the ground, aligning with U.S. support and Iraqi military forces to reclaim significant territory from the terrorist group in the past year. Mosul remains the star prize of ISIS, a big reason why the Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, and the U.S. are planning a major offensive to reclaim it.
As of this writing, it is not clear when the Swedish girl rescued from ISIS by Kurdish special forces will return to Sweden.
[Photo by AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian]