A British schoolboy who was orphaned after his mum took him to Syria to join ISIS wants to return to the UK.
Abdullah, 13, is currently locked up at a prison for minors in the country’s north-eastern region, having been in camps and jails for two years following a Kurdish-led attack against Baghouz, a town on the Iraq border.
It was the last stand for terror group ISIS, with defeat at the battle’s end in March 2019 leading to thousands of people then migrating into the neighbouring nation.
Abdullah told The National he is from London and has memories of travelling to school on a double-decker bus and going to McDonald’s in the city, though was born in Pakistan.
“I love London more than I love Pakistan. London is a beautiful country… I can do what I want there. I have a lot of friends,” he said in a video.
“Everything was good there. You have money, we are going to McDonalds, we are playing football and [going to] school.”
The teenager, whose family, including British-born mum Rohana, was killed by ISIS, said he worries about remaining in Syria and wants to go back to the UK to get an education.
He added: ‘It’s very very no good. Because in Syria, I don’t learn anything here. And I lost my family because of Syria. There’s nothing.”
Abdullah spent months housed in the Al-Hol refugee camp, run by Kurdish forces for those who surrendered following the Battle of Baghouz, he said.
The UN – which has urged for the repatriation of inmates – estimates it holds more than 22,000 foreign children, many brought by their parents who were then killed after joining ISIS.
Besides bringing back a small number of unaccompanied children, the British government is largely reluctant.
According to charity Save the Children, there were more than 60 British kids stuck at the camp last year, and many were under five.
Abdullah, who was seven when he migrated, said his extended family may not even realise he’s in Syria.
He said his mum would tell people that many of their relatives lived in Turkey and he can’t remember the names of those who are likely still in the UK.
Rohana took her children to Syria after a mysterious man entered the family’s life in the English capital in 2015, according to Abdullah.
The man helped her sell the house, he said.
On reaching Syria, Rohana then made a gesture of loyalty to ISIS and burned her family’s passports, which has made it more difficult for Abdullah to return.
They then moved between Raqqa, the village of Al Mayadeen, and Mosul in Iraq.
Abdullah said he begged his mum to move from their large tent when their encampment became the target of air strikes during the Battle of Baghouz.
The schoolboy fled to stay with friends across the camp but his mum and sister Zeinab and little brother Mohammed remained and were killed.
Another sister, Aisha, was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, and older brother Rabi Allah had been shot by a sniper while carrying out a suicide attack in Al Shaddadi.