ISIS Scottish teen gets a scolding from parents
The parents of a Scottish private schoolgirl who travelled to Syria to join Islamic fighters have begged for her to return home – but not before telling her she has 'betrayed' the family.
Aqsa Mahmood, 20, left her Glasgow home in November after becoming radicalised and fled to Syria where she married an ISIS fighter, her family said.
Their desperate plea came the day after footage emerged of a second American journalist - Steven Sotloff - being beheaded by extremists in the desert, and as the British Government hardened its stance against the brutal Islamic State amid terror warnings at home.
Her parents, Muzaffar and Khalida, said they were horrified that their 'sweet, peaceful, intelligent' child had joined jihadists in Syria and had hoped she would become a doctor in Britain.
In a statement issued today, they said she had 'betrayed' the family but begged for her to return home.
They said: 'We still love you, Aqsa, but we now have to put your family, your brother and sisters first as you have betrayed us, our community and the people of Scotland when you took this step.
'You have torn the heart out of our family and changed our lives forever. Please come home.'
They added: 'Aqsa was always a very sweet, peaceful, intelligent child and inquisitive about everything.
'We had high hopes for her and would have loved for her to be a doctor and to save lives.
'We dreamed that one day we would see her married with children but sadly that no longer looks likely.
'We have not seen our daughter since November of last year and can confirm that on her disappearance we immediately contacted Police Scotland and are grateful for their continued support.
'We found out ourselves within days that she had travelled through Turkey to Syria and subsequently married an ISIS fighter in February this year.
'As parents we would have liked for her to listen to us but we gave her everything possible in terms of love, freedom and education and she chose the path which we could never approve of.
'All parents want to be proud of their children but sadly we now feel nothing but sorrow and shame for Aqsa.
'We are not in denial and do not make any excuses for her and absolutely condemn her involvement in ISIS and recent comments.
'But she is our daughter and we still love her, fear for her life and would urge her to return home while she still can.
'She may believe that the jihadists of ISIS are her new family but they are not and are simply using her.'
The couple also confirmed that their daughter had been keeping in touch with them through social media since fleeing Britain, but said they had not heard from her since yesterday when her involvement with ISIS was revealed.
Mrs Mahmood wiped away tears as Mr Anwar read the statement on her and her husband's behalf at a press conference in Glasgow.
Mr Anwar said: 'She contacted them by phone [seven days after she left] to tell them that she had reached [Syria] and then they contacted the police to say she had phoned from Syria.
'She informed her family that she went from Turkey to Syria and that's the information we have.
'Because of yesterday, all contact appears to have terminated with their daughter.
'So, they are hoping that this plea will go out to their daughter and that she will think again and return home.
'They want her to come home while she still can. They are telling her that she is wrong, that she is deluded if she thinks she is helping people in Syria.
'With regards to the practicalities of it and how exactly that was done, clearly she must have received assistance in order to do that, and the family are not naive, but everybody is well aware that those who are travelling into Syria are receiving assistance in order to do that.'
The solicitor said Aqsa, a British national, had become 'concerned and upset' by media and online reports of the killing in Syria and had told her parents she wanted to help.
Her parents, who are liaising with Police Scotland, said: 'ISIS are killing in the name of religion and claiming to defend the weak, but by joining with them our daughter is brainwashed and deluded and helping those engaged in genocide.
'There is no smoking gun, no family member, no fundamentalist preacher that can be blamed for her radicalisation.
'Aqsa, like many young people in our community, was naturally angry and frustrated at the loss of innocent life in the Middle East but this is not the way to help.
'We are concerned that a growing climate of fear in this country means that children will not discuss how they feel with their family and friends, and this will only spell disaster for society.
'We know that in the days and months ahead we will be scouring social media for clues of whether our daughter is still alive.
'As we try to hold back the tears today, we feel we have lost our child.'
Mr Mahmood appeared emotionally defeated throughout the press conference and only occasionally clarified a few points with Mr Anwar.
Responding to questions, Mr Anwar said Aqsa had left her brother and sisters 'distressed, upset and torn apart'.
He added that while her family have branded her a 'bedroom radical', 'she is safe to return home and her family will open their door to her and take her back'.
In reference to David Cameron's plans to void and seize the passports of extremists, Mr Anwar said that it would not apply to her as she does not have dual citizenship.
He said that because Aqsa is a British national and 'not a dual national', she would not be affected by the proposals and so could 'return home at any time and that door is still open to her'.
He said: 'My understanding is that the police are also saying that she should return before it's too late.
Mr and Mrs Mahmood also warned of others becoming radicalised in Britain, adding: 'If our daughter, who had all the chances and freedom in life, could become a bedroom radical, then it is possible for this to happen to any family.'
Privately-educated Aqsa is reported to have encouraged terrorist acts via a Twitter account under the name Umm Layth – which carries a picture of the black flag of brutal terrorist group ISIS.
In a series of radical messages she encouraged others to copy the shocking murder of soldier Lee Rigby, the Boston Marathon bombing and the massacre at the Fort Hood US Army base in Texas. The account has since been deleted.
She travelled through Turkey to Aleppo in Syria in November and was reported missing to police.
Before disappearing she attended the prestigious private Craigholme School before enrolling at Glasgow Caledonian University to study diagnostic radiology.
She was 'well integrated into society', her parents said, and had been brought up 'with love and affection in a happy home'.
Police Scotland and the security services have previously confirmed they are aware of Aqsa.
Friends and family have previously told of their shock of her involvement with radical Islam and her decision to travel to Syria.
One ex-school friend said: 'She wasn't different. She got on with everybody. As soon as she decided to do something she would never change her mind. I guess that was something that was amazing about her, but also one of her downfalls.'
Another school friend said she was a 'usual, typical girl', adding: 'At school she had a lot of friends. She was a really confident person, she could talk to anyone she wanted, clever as well.'
'I would say she was a moderate Muslim. I find it really bizarre, knowing her from school and then her suddenly being part of Islamic State.'
Friends did not know she had travelled to the Middle East, although Mahmood, who was very interested in politics, had spoken about wanting to go there to 'help' in the fight against Bashar Assad's regime.
A security source said the Glasgow girl was one of an increasing number of western women travelling to Syria in order to provide a support network for organisations such as Islamic State.