Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase, and Shamima Begum seemed like three typical teenage girls; they grew up in normal middle-class families, went to high school at an academy in London, and enjoyed spending time with their friends at the mall. Then they made headlines in news outlets worldwide when they left their country and their families last month and traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. Their teachers and school friends were horrified to learn that these three straight-A students had run away to a war-torn country with the intention of marrying ISIS fighters, and the rest of the western world was equally shocked by the story.
They weren’t the first young women to run away from home to join up with ISIS, however; and it’s almost certain they won’t be the last. While it’s impossible to know exact numbers, it has been estimated that up to 500 young women have traveled to Syria so far in order to join this radical Islamist group. These three teenage girls aren’t an anomaly—they’re part of a dangerous and growing movement that requires our attention. What causes these young women to go from teenagers concerned with homework to terrorists concerned with holy war? What makes girls from typical western families leave everything behind in order to become jihadi brides?