Former Bethnal Green Academy students have revealed how Shamima Begum and Amira Abase began recruiting fellow teens for ISIS with badges for the terror group pinned to their blazers.
A student whose name has been changed to Jon* shared many lessons with the two girls and had seen them undergo a transformation in a matter of months, My London reports.
The pair, previously known for their love of reading and high grades, had become obsessed with the extremist group, who they tried to recruit other students for as they walked around with pin badges of a black flag with white Arabic writing on it.
“They’d start talking about religion and try to rope people in,” Jon continued.
“They were really pressuring about it, there were like ‘you know, if you don't go to Islam you're going to hell, you're going to die.'”
Shamima and Amira spoke with such knowledge and maturity, said Jon, their words often sounded like they’d been scripted by adults.
Their chats took place at school, although Amira also contacted him on BlackBerry Messenger as they avoided Facebook or any other platforms “that could be tracked.”
He said Amira wanted him to meet an Imam -an Islamic teacher who could explain things about ISIS in more detail.
“Being 14 years or 15 years old, you don't have that mental capacity to think you know what is right and what is wrong. So in my experience, it was scary,” he said.
But the teenage Jon, who is not from a Muslim background, also found the pitch appealing.
The overarching message Shamima and Amira delivered was not hate or violence, it was a dream of a perfect society.
He could try it, they said, if he went to Syria, where the Islamic group was building its utopia.
“[They told me] there's a community in Syria," Jon explained. "It's expanding, it's growing, it’s the next big thing.
“They made it sound as if it was such a good place to be: You don't need to worry about money or whatnot, everything's there for you.
“If you just study and learn religion, uphold the values of Islam, your life is sorted. It was very attractive and I could see why those girls wanted to be there.
“[Based on this message] I can understand other people who were thinking of going or went to Syria.”
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Being a fairly typical teenager, Jon didn’t keep up with the news and wasn’t aware there was a brutal civil war tearing the middle eastern country apart.
He only realised later that the group Shamima and Azira wanted him to join was the Islamic State In Syria or ISIS. The black symbol he’d noticed on their blazers was their flag.
In reality, life under ISIS was defined by a violent and hateful interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. The Islamic State was known for public executions, human slave markets, torture and murder.
Whether Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana were aware of ISIS’s brutal practices when they decided to take the leap a few months later and go to Syria has been a matter of fierce debate.
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If they were, they certainly never mentioned anything about it to Jon when they encouraged him to join.
He only discovered the true nature of ISIS when his friends left for Syria.
Their departure and the media storm that followed transformed their school, Bethnal Green Academy (BGA).
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“The next day every single kid that was close to them had to register with this police officer in the morning,” explained Jon.
“If you don't register, right in the morning, they will immediately call your family and if they don't pick up, they’d go to the house and see what's going on. It was very scary.
“Everything you did at school, the police had to know about.”
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