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My Twin the Jihadi

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Alice Allen
Peter Beard
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

The 22-year-old Henry twins look identical, but beneath the surface they are worlds apart. Jalila is a typical young South Londoner who enjoys nights out drinking and dancing with her friends. Jamila is a committed Muslim convert who went to Syria and is now on remand in Holloway.

We meet Jalila following her sister’s imprisonment and accompany her as she comes to terms with both a sense of personal betrayal and the practical impact her sister’s decision is making on her own life.

Raised by their Jehovah’s Witness mother in South London, the twins’ paths began to diverge when Jamila converted to Islam in her early teens along with a host of her contemporaries. Despite the vast differences in interests and lifestyle this generated, it was when Jamila married at 18 and moved to East London that Jalila began to feel a real distance grow between them.

In early 2014, her marriage failing, isolated and disillusioned with her life in the Western world, Jamila decided to flee to Syria with her baby son to start anew in the Islamic State, where a number of her friends had already settled.  After constant pleas from her family she returned to the UK 7 months later, only to take off in secret once more just a few months down the line… this time without her son and travelling on a stolen passport – her twin Jalila’s.

Stopped by the Turkish authorities before reaching Syria on this occasion, she was deported back to the UK in March 2015 and charged with possession of an identity document with improper intention.

Making the journey across London to see her sister in the confines of Holloway, Jalila feels a confusing mixture of resentment and an urge to protect – she worries about how “good girl” Jamila is faring in prison and suggests she’s the one who’d be better placed to handle this tough environment.

Jalila’s own freedom of movement has also been curtailed as a result of her twin’s behaviour. Since Jamila’s visit to the Islamic State and interactions with the security services, she’s found it impossible to get a visa to the USA where some of her family lives. Is this fair? Far from it, but she’s no choice other than to accept it.

She’s worried about what’s to come when Jamila is released too… has her sister learnt a lesson or are all the same issues that spurred her to leave still lurking untouched by this experience?

If you suspect a family member or friend is being radicalised...

Active Change Foundation have a confidential helpline. Call 020 8539 2770

Potential warning signs of radicalisation.

Physical changes:

· Sudden or gradual change in physical appearance

· Sudden or unexpectedly wearing religious attire

· Getting tattoos displaying various messages

· Unexpectedly growing a beard

· Unexpectedly shaving their head (skinhead)

· Possesses unexplained gifts and clothing (groomers will sometimes use gifts such as mobile phones and clothing to bribe a young person)

Social changes:

· Cuts ties with their friends, family or community

· Starts to become socially withdrawn

· Becoming dependent on social media and the internet

· Begins to associate with others who hold radical views

· Bullies or demonises other people freely

· Begins to attend rallies and demonstrations for extremist causes

· Associates with known radicals

· Visits extremist websites, networks and blogs

Emotional and verbal changes:

· Begins to complain, often with anger, about governmental policies, especially foreign policy

· Advocates violence or criminal behaviour

· Begins to believe in government conspiracies

· Exhibits erratic behaviour such as paranoia and delusion

· Speaks about seeking revenge

· Starts to exhibit extreme religious intolerance

· Demonstrates sympathy to radical groups

· Displays hatred or intolerance of other people or communities because they are different


Organisations that can help:-

The Active Change Foundation - online onFacebook@Active_Change_FYouTube and Tumblr

The Ramadan Tent Project - online, onFacebook@RamadanTentYouTube and Instagram

Inspire - online, on Facebook@wewillinspireVimeoand YouTube

Quilliam Foundation online, on Facebook and @QuilliamF

Further Reading

Till Martyrdom So Us Part - Gender and ISIS

No Place for Children - Human Rights Watch report on Somalia

Documenting the Virtual Caliphate - Quilliam Foundation

Deradicalising Islamist Extremists - RAND National Security Research