THE terrorist group ISIS may have attracted men and women from all walks of life, but a beauty queen from TT might have fallen victim too.
She is Gailon Su, 43, a former 2014 Miss Longdenville (a local government beauty pageant) who, together with her teenage son Sulay Su, 16, was captured in Syria last week. She is the wife of an ISIS fighter from Enterprise, Chaguanas.
The international press reported last week that Su was fleeing from the Syrian town of Al Safa, with Sulay. It was reported that soldiers captured them in the battlefield. They have since been confined to a refugee camp and branded former ISIS members.
Her daughter, Ebony Su, 23, who lives in TT, is pleading for government to intervene, saying her mother was hoodwinked into joining ISIS by a TT-based ISIS camp.
“I’m not a Muslim,” she said. “ My mother became a member of the Muslim faith in 2014 when she met this guy from Central. She had been living there. That same year, the man told her they were going to the US, then to Mecca, for a better life. They took my little brother, Sulay.”
Sulay was 11 and Ebony told Newsday she was 16 at the time and was living with a relative in Port of Spain.
Based on subsequent conversations she had with her mother via social media, Ebony said when Su realised she had landed in Syria, she became hysterical and begged to leave with Sulay.
“We use to video conference with my mom...She suffered in Syria under ISIS during those years.” As US soldiers made incursions into ISIS strongholds, Su tried to flee with Sulay some time last year, Ebony said. She lost touch with them, but in November she received a desperate call from her mother, begging for help to return home.
Ebony said, “She and my brother hadn’t eaten for three weeks, maybe very little. It was a video call and they look terrible. If you see my mother and brother face. She said she want money to come back home. My mom said she left the man a long time, and that one day, he made my little brother kneel down on two graters if he did not join ISIS.”
Ebony visited the Foreign Affairs Ministry to deliver a letter she wrote appealing for government intervention.
“I’m yet to receive a response,” Ebony said, adding that her mother told her that her kidneys were failing owing to a lack of proper drinking water and food.
She pleaded, “I’m appealing to the government to help bring my mother home and my brother. He was an innocent child when he was taken to Syria. I really don’t know what more to do at this point.”
Ebony told Newsday that on Friday she was contacted by New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who interviewed her and told her that Su and her son had been captured in the battlefield and taken to a refugee camp.
Dr Simon Cottee, who visited TT recently to study the extent of recruitment of so-called radical Muslims into ISIS, interviewed Ebony from London yesterday. He gave Newsday a comment. “Sulay was just 12 when he travelled to Syria with his family. He didn’t have any say in the matter. “At the moment he left, he stopped being a kid. That is to say, his childhood was over. That was stolen from him. “So he’s a victim as much as a perpetrator in the Syrian jihad. Even now, he’s just 16 and likely brutalised by his exposure to what he has seen,” Cottee said.