An eight year-old Tennessee orphan taken to Syria by her ISIS supporter parents still speaks with an American accent – and was beaten by an Islamic State ‘carer’ assigned to look after her when her parents died.
Aminah Mohamad spoke with a researcher from the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), offering insight into her trauma-filled young life.
‘I only know that my mom died, and my dad died,’ Aminah told the researcher. The youngster, born in Tennessee to American mom Ariel Bradley, 25, still has her US accent, and does not appear to be able to speak Arabic. She also gave her age as six, rather than eight, during the ICSVE interview.
Aminah has been living in hiding since she began the sole survivor of a 2018 airstrike that killed her mother, stepfather and little brothers, the Daily Beast reported. The girl was injured in the attack and still scars from the blast.
Following her family’s deaths, Aminah was placed in the care of one of her stepfather’s other wives, an ISIS detainee who remained loyal to the cause, at Camp Roj.
Aminah Mohamad (pictured), an 8-year-old American girl who grew up under ISIS rule, says she doesn’t know much about her family or where she came from noting: ‘I only know that my mom died, and my dad died’
‘I don’t know her; she just takes care of me,’ Aminah said when the ICSVE asked about her caretaker.
A Kurdish woman who Aminah reportedly opened up to in the camp claimed the orphan had been beaten and assaulted by her former caretaker. Aminah was also forced to do housework in their tent and was tasked with caring for the woman’s son.
Simultaneously, Aminah was being actively hidden from local authorities who actively seek out orphans. She was placed in a niqab, a face covering that shows only the eyes, and which children do not normally wear, in effort to disguise the fact that she was not her caretaker’s biological daughter.
According to the women who helped facilitate her rescue, Aminah was ‘languishing in the camp’ and faced several hardships including starvation.
She did not attend school and appeared to not understand Arabic, the native language of Syria. Aminah’s preferred language is English and she speaks with an American accent, the Beast reported.
Aminah was rescued from Camp Roj on July 17 and is being held at a secure location in northeast Syria as preparations are being made for her repatriation to the United States.
Aminah was rescued from Camp Roj (pictured) on July 17 and is being held at a secure location in northeast Syria as preparations are being made for her repatriation to the United States
The repatriation process, which is handled by the U.S. Department of State, involves a DNA confirmation of identity before Aminah can be brought home. Afterwards, authorities will work to determine a placement that is in her best interest.
‘Aminah has been through things that no child should ever go through – war, hunger, the deaths of her mother, father and stepfather, being hidden away. She will need a lot of supports, psychological and material,’ Galbraith, who is not involved in the placement process, explained.
The state department did not provide DailyMail.com with specific details on Aminah’s case, however a spokesman said in a statement, the country’s official policy is to: ‘repatriate, prosecute when appropriate, rehabilitate when possible and reintegrate their foreign terrorist fighter nationals and associated family members currently living in northeast Syria and Iraq’.
The youngster’s grandparents, aunt and uncle live in Tennessee, and say they will push to adopt Aminah when she returns to the United States.
‘We are and have been actively working the many steps it will take for Aminah to come home,’ Aminah’s uncle, Daniel Bradley, of Chattanooga, told DailyMail.com. ‘We anticipate the day Aminah will return to the United States to live with her family.’
Aminah’s mom, Ariel Bradley, grew up in a devout Christian household in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and converted to Islam in 2011
Aminah was born on December 8, 2011 to Chattanooga-native Ariel Bradley who grew up a strict Evangelical Christian, but later rebelled against her devout upbringing.
Bradley became a drug-taking anti-climate change protester, before converting to Islam after taking up with an Iraqi refugee based in Sweden – Yasin Mohamad – who is Aminah’s father. The couple also shared a son together, Yaqub, and moved to Syria to join ISIS in 2014.
Mohamad was killed while fighting in 2015, with Bradley then marrying Australian pediatrician Tareq Kamleh. Kamleh is the father of Bradley’s third child, a boy named Yousef.
Bradley, Kamleh, Yaqub and Yousef were killed in a hospital air strike in 2018 that left Aminah injured, according to the Daily Beast. She has been left with permanent scars as a result of that bombing.
Aminah and her parents had been living under ISIS rule since her parents joined the terrorist organization in 2014. After her family’s deaths, she was then sent to Camp Roj, a Kurdish-controlled detention camp for people with ties to the Islamic State.
Camp Roj is famously home to Shamima Begum, a British ISIS bride who fled London in February 2015 at the age of just 15 to join the caliphate.
Begum married a Dutch ISIS fighter, and is said to have joined the terror group’s morality police. Her husband and three children have all died, with Begum currently pleading to be allowed home to the UK, despite being stripped of her citizenship.
Aminah was rescued from the facility last month after a Canadian woman who has since denounced her ties to the terrorist organization managed to alert former US diplomat Peter Galbraith of her condition.
According to Galbraith, a group of Somali women living together took steps to hide Aminah from the Kurdish guards, who would regularly search for orphans.
Galbraith, who dealt with the Kurds for the United States government and has spent the past three years trying to repatriate women and children from the detention camps, was alerted of Aminah’s condition after successfully rescuing another family.
Peter Galbraith, a former United States diplomat who worked with the Kurds, has spent the past three years trying to repatriate women and children from the detention camps
He told DailyMail.com that he visited the camp in November 2019 after a German woman asked him to help rescue her children from the facility.
When he successfully repatriated that family, his contact information spread through the camp, reaching a Canadian woman who was crucial to Aminah’s rescue.
The woman used Kurdish authorities to alert Galbraith of Aminah’s situation and he decided he needed to free her.
‘I didn’t know if I could get Aminah out,’ Galbraith said. ‘I want to give credit to the Canadian woman – without her courage in terms of identifying Aminah and saying where she is, we wouldn’t have been able to get her out.’
‘She risked her life to save this child,’ he added.
On July 17, a team of SDF soldiers descended on the Somali enclave and retrieved Aminah. It is unclear what happened in the raid. She is now being looked after at a safe location in northern Syria while officials work to repatriate her.
Bradley, who grew up in poverty, was homeschooled by her mother with a curriculum based on the beliefs of the Pentecostal Church of God, according to the Herald-Sun. She had several gaps in her knowledge, such as not learning to read until she was a pre-teen and never obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
As she aged, Bradley grew embarrassed of her mother’s evangelism, became an atheist and denounced religion as a ‘delusion.’ She ran away from the family home around age 16 and spent the next decade bouncing between relationships, homes, and religion.
Bradley’s (pictured) friends said she often changed her beliefs to match those of ‘whatever guy she was interested in’ at the time
‘Not to throw her under the bus or anything, but she was definitely always looking for love, always looking for that sense of belonging,’ one friend told Buzzfeed in 2015.
‘Her life was a solar system without a star, without a sun,’ another echoed.
Bradley later committed her time to social activism, pushing for racial equality, teachers’ rights and fair housing, while also volunteering with the homeless.
Her friends claim she got tattoos, drank and smoked weed, before developing a crush on a young Muslim man she met while working at a local restaurant.
She then started dressing more modestly, made Muslim friends and wore scarves over her head, and officially converted to Islam in 2011.
‘The thing about Ariel that was just so weird was that she had a clearly segmented life,’ a friend said after Bradley joined ISIS. ‘It was like when I first met her, she was a Christian, and then she was a socialist, and then she was an atheist and then a Muslim.
‘As far as I could tell it was always in relation to whatever guy she was interested in. So if she meets a guy that’s an atheist, she falls into that for a year. Then the guy leaves and she becomes somebody new and it starts all over again.
‘It seemed like whatever guy she was with, she would just crawl into his skin and kind of become him.’
As she aged, Bradley (right) grew embarrassed of her mother’s evangelism, became an atheist and denounced religion as a ‘delusion’
Bradley started talking to Yasin Mohamad on a dating website that year, and traveled to Sweden to meet him in person in December 2011. They wed during her visit.
Her friends, particularly her Muslim friends, were concerned about the arrangement. Some believed that Mohamad, a refugee from Iraq who was not a Swedish citizen, was using her to obtain American citizenship.
‘Everybody warned her and just said, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it, you don’t know him, you don’t know anything about his background, you don’t know his family.’ It could be a trick or something,’ a close female Muslim friend told the news outlet.
When she became pregnant, Buzzfeed reports, she returned home to give birth in her hometown, before moving back to Sweden to be with Mohamad and eventually to Syria so Bradley and Mohamad could join ISIS in 2014.
According to Buzzfeed, Aminah was 18-months-old when her family relocated to Syria. At the time, Bradley was pregnant with her second child, Yaqub.
She used social media to document her life inside, Buzzfeed reported at the time, sharing stories about her children and bemoaning the barrage of bombs as she would eat breakfast with her kids.
She reportedly wrote that she would take her kids to the park to play – an adventure that ended with the family watching ISIS propaganda.
Bradley, under the handle @umaminahamrikl, used social media to document her life inside
She would share stories online about her children and bemoaning the barrage of bombs as she would eat breakfast with her kids
Bradley also shared this photo of a bowl of meat from an animal sacrificed to celebrate the birth of her baby son
Aminah was interviewed by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism following her release from the camp.
‘She clearly self-identified as Aminah and talked about her family with deep sadness,’ director Anne Speckhard told Buzzfeed, adding she ‘doesn’t have a clear context as to where she’s from.’
Speckhard said she needs ‘a safe, predictable and loving environment to replace the traumatic one [she] lived under.’
According to the Canadian woman, ‘Children in the camps have the worst start to life. They are already traumatized y losing one or more parents and growing up around violence, poverty and misery.
‘They deal with constant danger, lack of food, lack of education and their lives are simply going to waste.’
Aminah has family in Tennessee who told DailyMail.com they are ‘actively working the many steps it will take for Aminah to come home’ and ‘anticipate the day Aminah will return to the United States to live with her family’
Galbraith said he wants to do whatever he can now to ensure that her new life in America will be different from the one she escaped.
He said he wants her to play with other children, attend school and ‘get the counseling and the mental health support she’s clearly going to need.’
‘Aminah has been through things that no child should ever go through – war, hunger, the deaths of her mother, father and stepfather, being hidden away. She will need a lot of supports, psychological and material,’ he said.
‘My ability to do anything is limited,’ Galbraith added. ‘But I want the people who make the decisions to know where she came from and what she went through.’
Galbraith also managed to secure the release of the Canadian woman, who is now in Iraq waiting to be repatriated to her home country.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk