Extremist romance: How terrorists use ‘jihotties’ to lure lonely hearts online

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of and Greater Syria (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria. AP Photo/Militant Website, File

Plenty of people look for love online. So maybe it’s no surprise that terrorists who’ve proven themselves adept at digital propagandizing turn to the internet to lure lonely hearts to their cause.

Blogs and social media accounts entice isolated young women in Europe, North America and elsewhere with glamourized accounts of life as a jihadi bride.

But women who buy into the sales pitch find themselves in a brutal reality of violence and sex slavery, says David B. Harris, lawyer and director of the International Intelligence Program at INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. in Ottawa.

READ MORE: Islamic State outlines ‘rules’ for when soldiers can rape female slaves: report

Women risk “an enormous difference between the sales pitch on the one hand and the grim reality on the other that may await them,” he said.

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The propaganda and manipulation used to lure these individuals can be extremely effective, even with those who wouldn’t usually be inclined to engage with the so-called Islamic State.

READ MORE: Don’t expect Anonymous to beat ISIS, cyber-security expert says

The New York Times detailed the way ISIS lured a trio of teenagers from their home in Bethnall Green, London to Istanbul and then on a bus to the Syrian border.

“These transactions are really more widespread than many would imagine,” said Harris.

Bloggers posing as besotted brides of terrorists brag about their love lives in a CNN video detailing so-called “jihottie” recruitment.

READ MORE: Female refugees endure sexual violence, exploitation as they escape war-torn Syria, Iraq: Amnesty

But this falsely idealized lifestyle can prove impossible to escape, Harris said.

“If they change their minds, owing perhaps to the brutality of what they could experience personally and witness…they would be regarded as infidel women with the result of sex slavery — which is another way of saying rape for life — will be their fate.”

Last March 16X9 found out just how easy it is to connect with such recruiters: They caught one on camera as he coached an undercover producer on how to leave Canada, travel through Turkey and across the Syrian border where he said he would be waiting.

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WATCH: 16×9 producer Skypes with a man claiming to be an ISIS fighter living in Syria. 

The man thought he was speaking with a 15-year-old Canadian girl from Edmonton.

“It’s very easy for a young girl in Canada to set up a Twitter account, gain this kind of access to fighters overseas and be in direct communication with them very quickly,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University and an expert on foreign fighters, and told 16×9 at the time.

With files from 16×9

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