Via National Post:
The woman’s secret flight from the caliphate took place more than six months ago, aided by a smuggler who helped her sneak across the Syrian-Turkish border one spring night. But in spirit, this red-haired exile from the Islamic State never truly left.
She covered herself in black from head to toe to greet a recent visitor to the small Moroccan house where she stays, and removed her veil only when assured that her guest, also a woman, was alone. Over sips of mint tea, she spoke admiringly of her militant husband and the comrades she met in the Islamic State’s all-female brigade. Calling herself Zarah – she declined to give her family name because she had traveled to Syria in secret – she vowed that her children would someday reclaim the Islamist paradise she believes was stolen from her family.
“We will bring up strong sons and daughters and tell them about the life in the caliphate,” she said, fingering her teacup through black gloves. “Even if we hadn’t been able to keep it, our children will one day get it back.”
Zarah’s blunt-spoken fealty to the Islamic State was remarkable, given the physical and legal perils facing Islamic State residents who seek to return to former homes. But counterterrorism officials fear that the sentiments expressed by the Moroccan woman may not be so unusual.
For months, terrorism officials have been expecting a wave of returnees from the caliphate. But not this one.
In Morocco, the North African kingdom whose coastline faces continental Europe from across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, just over 1,600 male fighters have traveled to Iraq or Syria since 2012 to join the Islamic State, along with a nearly equal number of women and children, according to figures compiled by the Soufan Group, a private firm that advises governments and corporations on security matters.
The flow of recruits from North Africa and Europe slowed to a trickle last year as U.S.-backed forces cut off the group’s supply lines and closed in on its final strongholds, and relatively few of the male fighters have come home, despite fears of a mass exodus as the caliphate neared collapse. Instead, foreign consulates in Turkey have been besieged by hundreds of women and children – the wives, mothers and offspring of Islamic State fighters – seeking permission to return home.