A Malayali girl who joined ISIS has said that she has no regrets in her decision and want to return Kerala. Merrin Jacob Pallath who caned her name to Mariyam after converting to Islam is now in a jail in Kabul. She said this in an interview given to an International daily. She was arrested with other fellow members of Islamic State Khorasan Province.
Mariyam and seven other Indian women are being arrested by the National Directorate of Security, the spy agency of Afghanistan. They were arrested after Afghan forces retook the eastern province of Nangarhar from ISIS in November 2019.
She is among the first known ISIS recruits from India. She joined IS in 2016, along with a group of about 20 other young people from Kerala’s Ernakulam district.
“We came here because we wanted to live in a place with Sharia, and nothing else. We were happy here. I had some idea of the brutality, but that is not what was highlighted to us.,” said Mariyam. “We were told there were lots of killings and bombings here, but to be honest we did not witness that. We lived in an area where all that was not happening. I led a very peaceful life. My husband provided me with everything I needed,” she said.
Mariyam said the women, who have 15 children with them, just wanted “to go back home” despite facing charges which could lead to life terms, including supporting a terrorist organisation, criminal conspiracy and “waging war against Asiatic powers in alliance with the government of India”.
“It is a big concern that the children will be separated from us [in India]. But we prefer to go back because we don’t have anyone here. We came with our families but we don’t have them anymore. There is no point staying here.”
The Afghan authorities appear unwilling to devote resources to prosecuting foreign ISIS prisoners, who numbered about 1,400 in January. Instead they have been co-operating with various governments, including India, to send the detainees back to their home countries.
Mariyam said they had been visited by Indian officials in January, but had heard nothing further. The NIA’s most-wanted list on its website still shows her as “absconding”.
Mariyam has been widowed twice since coming to Afghanistan and has two children: a 10-month-old baby and another child, aged 3.She converted to Islam to marry her childhood crush who is also a convert. She joined IS when she was just 22 and working with IBM in Mumbai.