As a child growing up in London, Tania Joya, whose parents were Bangladeshi, was the brunt of racist bullying. In high school, she became friends with religious Muslim girls who she gravitated towards due to their modesty and clean lifestyle and the fact that they provided her with friendship, community and protection.
Yet, their radical rhetoric and proselytizing eventually pulled her in, causing her to absorb their hate against the West, as well.
At 19, she went online and found a husband, an American convert to Islam who eventually became a key player in ISIS and building the “caliphate.” The two dreamed of giving birth to seven sons who would all become warriors for ISIS and joked about them conquering the seven continents of the world.
Yet life as the “property” of her husband quickly turned sour. Joya found herself trapped in an abusive marriage with no financial resources and a husband unwilling to give her a divorce.
During this period of time, she watched news from all points of view to hear what everyone was saying – MSNBC, PBS and even Fox. It was on Fox Business that she began to hear about American values and the Constitution. Joya relates that it “sparked a light in my head,” making her realize that not only was she wasting her life, but that she wanted to be free.
Now the mother of four boys, one night, while living in Egypt, she was forced against her will to board a bus and accompany her husband to Syria, where he planned to join ISIS. Terrified that her children would be killed, she took her husband’s cell phone at the first opportunity, called his mother and asked her to get in touch with the FBI agent who had arrested her husband in 2006.
She told her mother-in-law to tell the agent that she would not have just one American terrorist on her hands but five (her husband intended to make her four boys into child soldiers).
The FBI was able to rescue Joya and her children from Syria. ISIS was not yet designated a terrorist organization and Joya wasn’t charged with a crime.
Since her rescue, Joya has worked with the FBI helping fight the war on terror and deradicalizing others.
Watch Joya tell her story: