The Caliphate Girl from Zoetermeer
All the way to the Islamic State caliphate - and back
In the summer of 2016, near to IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq, a young Dutch woman was found running through the desert, two small children in her arms. Her name was Laura, she was twenty years old and had escaped after a year’s captivity. She was crying. She wanted to go home.
In a desperate attempt to save her, her father had set up a rescue mission with the help of a shady network of mercenaries. But when Laura arrived back at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, she was arrested. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service believed IS had sent her to commit an act of terror. And so Laura from Zoetermeer became ‘Laura H.’ – the way the Dutch press label criminals, by first name and the initial of their last name – held at the terrorist detention facility in Vught. She was the first Dutch woman to return from the caliphate and found herself in the eye of a media storm.
Journalist Thomas Rueb was compelled to investigate what had made a young mother travel to the caliphate. This story of a vulnerable girl who fell in love with a handsome Jihadi and was radicalized, sheds light on why anyone might decide to support the greatest threat to world peace in the past decade. When talking to Rueb, Laura proved a fearless, open storyteller with an eye for detail, willing to share her experiences with an outsider. Rueb’s conversations with her were largely recorded in her childhood bedroom in Zoetermeer, as she lay on the bed, sometimes holding one leg in the air to recharge the electronic tag around her ankle. Rueb also interviewed her family, friends, the police officers involved, and had access to Whats-App and Facebook conversations, diary entries, e-mails and other messages, police files and psychological examinations.
Laura H. isn’t the first book on the IS, but never before has such a disconcerting and detailed report on the hopelessness of life inside the Caliphate been published. First and foremost, it is the personal story of the dramatic unravelling of a teenager’s life.