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How a WhatsApp message told British families their children had entered Syria
Mar 21, 2015 at 5:57 pm
***The Abdulqadir family received the grim news through a WhatsApp message from one sister to another, with a grinning selfie attached. "Don't worry about us, we've reached Turkey and are on our way to volunteer helping wounded Syrian people," medical student Lena Maumoon Abdulqadir wrote. She looked happy and relaxed.
The brief, cheery message arrived on 13 March, just hours before the 19-year-old crossed the border. Lena's terrified sibling showed it to their parents and within hours the girl's father was on a plane to Turkey himself. Maumoon Abdulqadir was convinced that his daughter had gone to join a jihadi group – and was determined to bring her back.
Lena was born in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, the daughter of two doctors with Sudanese roots. She had decided to follow in their footsteps, and selected Khartoum medical school for her studies, encouraged by parents who were keen for her to reconnect with their culture. She stayed with her grandmother and the last time her father saw her, for dinner together in the Sudanese capital, she seemed happy with her progress in the long slog to become a doctor
It soon became clear that the tragedy was not confined to one family; around a dozen classmates had left together. Most of the group who made the illegal, risky journey into Syria are British citizens with Sudanese roots – four women and five men. Two or three Sudanese medics also travelled with them, but would probably have needed visas to enter Turkey, suggesting the trip was not an impulse decision but a carefully planned operation that had been concealed in well-judged fear of parental disapproval.***
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