A now-30-year-old woman born in Pakistan but reared in Norway went on trial in Oslo this week, charged with supporting the terror group ISIL (The Islamic State) after marrying and joining a Norwegian member of ISIL in Syria. She has already broken down in court several times, claiming she ended up being beaten and abused and not allowed to leave.
The woman, who regularly wore a nikab that covered her entirely before she left for Syria, claimed she wanted to return home to Norway after her first three months there in 2013 but wasn’t allowed to. She has now swapped her nikab for conventional clothing during her trial.
She faces six years in prison for aiding and abetting terrorists, which is what Norwegian prosecutors claim she did by marrying, keeping house and having children first with the Norwegian Islamist Bastian Vasquez, who later was killed while making a bomb, then with another late ISIL member from Egypt before marrying yet a third ISIL man who also was killed. Prosecutors claim women who became part of ISIL (around 11 from Norway) made it possible for the men to carry out their acts of war and terror. “That’s the core of this case,” claims prosecutor Geir Evanger.
The young Oslo woman ended up spending six years in Syria before the Norwegian government finally arranged to bring her and her two children home from a refugee camp because one of them was said to be seriously ill. That led to a government crisis because the conservative Progress Party was only willing to repatriate the children, not her. Progress ended up leaving the government shortly thereafter.
The defendant, who has not been publicly identified in keeping with Norwegian press tradition, now claims she simply fell in love with Vasquez in Norway, selling off all her possessions and flying first to Turkey before joining him. She claimed she otherwise feared being married off to a cousin in Pakistan, and when her father forbid her to marry Vasquez instead, she headed for Syria.
She admits to having had “radical thoughts” at the time, that she supported jihad and the war against the Syrian regime. She denies being guilty of contributing to terrorism, however.
Evanger countered in his opening arguments that she knew she was traveling to join an extremist organization, and that she would lose her freedom. “She also knew Vasquez was a militant warror and that he took part in terrorism,” he said in court. “There’s also evidence she wanted weapons when she went.”
She denies that, with her defense attorney arguing that what’s at issue is whether her role as a housewife can be considered punishable participation in a terrorist organization. He claims it’s not, with newspaper Aftenposten noting how he consistently refers to her as “surviving ISIL” rather than participating in it.
Her trial, the first involving a female terror defendant in Norway, is due to run for four weeks.