This information has been obtained from the Rojava Information Centre and is a short transcript of an interview undertaken with female British ISIS recruiter, Tooba Gondal in the Ayn Issa camp. She survived 4 years within Islamic State territory.
Interviewer: We actually went there (Baghouz), what was it like?
Tooba Gondal: Getting out was like the biggest relief, it was like being trapped there was no food, it was just constant food, constant bombing, sniping and bullets, it was war. All the four years I’ve been in Syria was war. The last part there was no food. Eventually food trucks came in, there was not double but the prices… it was a dollars market. And maybe I bought 1 packet of diapers for 100 dollars. It was ridiculous.
The women and the children became the victims, we didn’t know, I didn’t know who’s on the left attacking us, who’s on the right attacking us, who are we even with, who is amongst us. It was a complete mess. And even trying to leave was almost… it was a mission, to try to find any way to escape or any reliable smugglers who could help you.
Interviewer: You didn’t leave with the buses?
Tooba Gondal: there was no buses… this time, there was no buses, it was just your own contacts… there was no buses.
Interviewer: What happened to your husband?
Tooba Gondal: He got killed.
Tooba Gondal: In the village of Khsam.
Interviewer: Where was he from?
Tooba Gondal: He was from Pakistan.
Interviewer: So what happened in the time you were without a husband?
Tooba Gondal: It was the most hard time I’ve ever seen, maybe in my life. In the last year and a half, it was the most difficult time, always with two small children, always having to move from one village to another, there’s no one taking care of you, no one helping you. You have to do everything by yourself.
Interviewer: Where are you from originally?
Tooba Gondal: I’m originally Pakistani, originally Muslim, but I was born in France, but I have a permanent British residence.
Intreviewer: When did you move to Britain?
Tooba Gondal: When I was 3 or 4. I left from Britain, I spent almost all the life that I can remember in Britain, I grew up in London.
Interviewer: How old are you?
Tooba Gondal: I’m 25 now.
Interviewer: And how old were you when you left Britain?
Tooba Gondal: 21, newly 21. I’ve been here now 4 years.
Interviewer: Can you tell us about the life in the Ayn Issa camp here?
Tooba Gondal: Life here is very harsh, very difficult. I can complain almost about anything, the military here they don’t… help us with any of our issues, we have tents here that almost always the water is coming through, the leaking, the food… UNICEF are supporting us, really good things, they give us food monthly and solar chargers so that we can have light inside our tents. But other than that it’s really horrible, the toilets are absolutely disgusting, there’s one small shop. We shop through the window and every time we wait maybe 2 to 3 hours to buy something. There’s no schooling, there’s on and off medical care but also not so great, we really have to make a big thing to get any type of medicine. … They don’t help, especially with children.
Interviewer: do you know why you were brought here and not in the other two camps?
Tooba Gondal: No, I don’t know… I just know that the smuggler sold us to this, to this military here. I got captured by them from the borders. I was maybe 15 minutes close to the border of Turkey when I got brought here in the night.
Interviewer: do you know of people who made it out?
Tooba Gondal: From here back to their countries?
Interviewer: From Baghouz, Raqqa, out…
Tooba Gondal: No, all I know, almost everyone has been captured and sent to the camps. I don’t know anyone…
Interviewer: Do you have friends, acquaintances in the camp?
Tooba Gondal: yes, a few, I have some… there aren’t many British people here… there are Pakistani families that are really nice.
Interviewer: How did the smugglers bring you from Baghouz to the Turkish border?
Tooba Gondal: We were in a car, close to the border and stopped at the checkpoint, the Kurdish checkpoint. That’s when women, men with arms searched us and forced us into a car and brought us here immediately, it was very fast. We got searched maybe 2-3 times, they took our money, they took our gold, they took our watches, all electronics, we have to start life from zero.
Interviewer: How did you make it out of Baghouz?
Tooba Gondal: It was arranged through a smuggler. So I hooked up with some people, that have contacted the smuggler. and the smuggler he have contacts to arrange a car, and we move from car to car, we travel through the desert moving from car to car over five days.
Interviewer: Where were you before Baghouz?
Tooba Gondal: Moving from village to village, four to five villages, so always it was constantly moving, every two to three weeks, moving from Hajin village, going to Sousa village, constant moving, tired, bombing, war, I have an injury here, shrapnel landed between my eyebrows. It’s from military, the regime… I don’t know how you say it in English… A bullet which explodes into the air and it hit me in between my eyebrows. It still remains, they stitched over it, I don’t know if they were doctors or amateurs, I don’t know.
Now I have a big nerve problem in my head, I complained to them and I had no help, I had many symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, maybe the shrapnel is touching a nerve but I have no help. I complain but still now, being here over 2 months they didn’t have any x-rays for anything.
Interviewer: Do you feel more British, Pakistani, French, how do you feel?
Tooba Gondal: I feel British. But Britain refuses to take us in, and I’m just left with hope for any life again in any place where I can live a normal life and educate my children.
Interviewer: Why do you think Britain doesn’t want to take you back?
Tooba Gondal: I know Britain, I grew up in Britain, and I heard after they refused um…
Interviewer: Shamima Begum?
Tooba Gondal: After they refused her, I know the British public, they are scared, they don’t want to deal with us, but they must deal with us. But we can’t stay in this camp for the rest of our lives, they must deal with us. We are not a threat to their society, we just want a normal life again.
Interviewer: What do you think will happen if these people, these children stay in these camps for 5 to 10 years?
Tooba Gondal: I hope that never happens, that sounds like an absolutely terrible thing for the women and children to be trapped in such camps, no help, no facilities, um, if that’s the case then the children are already so uneducated, have already adapted to such bad manners and foul language, so they will grow up to not have any manners and to not have any education… the women will maybe lose their sanity, I think I will lose my sanity. More sicknesses, more diseases, many stories, cases of deaths, illness that already took place… if it continues like this then it’s very bad.
Interviewer: Just to clarify, you have British residency?
Tooba Gondal: Yes, I have a permanent British residency.
Interviewer: And a French passport?
Tooba Gondal: Yes.
Interviewer: And a Pakistani passport?
Tooba Gondal: No.
Interviewer: So you just have a French passport?
Tooba Gondal: Yes. I have it with me till now, they didn’t find it, the military here didn’t find it, and I had it sewn in my diapers, through my children’s diapers. I still have it with me after all this war that I’ve seen and that’s the only thing I have left.
Interviewer: Just to play devil’s advocate, you say you just want to go back into a normal life…
Tooba Gondal: If I did not harm to anyone, if I committed no harm in Syria for 4 years, what kind of threat can I be to Britain?
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