Updated: November 19, 2015 11:15:03 am
Arrested in Sept 2015 on deportation from UAE
Her hobby is recorded as “Internet chatting”, dress habits as “western” and food preferences as “tandoori chicken, pizza and KFC”. In her interrogators’ words, Afsha Jabeen is “a split personality”, with “conflicting opinions” on everything, who remains a staunch follower and sympathiser of the Islamic State, and who believes that one day “a global caliphate will be established”.
The only woman charged in India for association with the IS, the 38-year-old Jabeen is an unlikely figure for a jihadist. Settled in Dubai, married to a Hindu real estate agent and the mother of three young girls, she is accused of being an online recruiter who indoctrinated many using a fake identity.
Her interrogation report, accessed by The Indian Express, has her justifying beheadings of Iraqi prisoners by IS soliders, equating it to “the act of killing the war prisoners” in Quran. Jabeen also supported “secession of J&K from India as Muslims of that state are tortured by Indian forces”, and said, “Nationalism is passe”.
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About the Caliphate, she said it would implement the Sharia law. “I disbelieve man-made laws rather than the eternal law of Sharia.” Further, she said, “Election of Calipha will be done by Shoora council rather than namesake democracy.”
“… as per me 2/3rd of Quran is jihad, which is Holy War”, Jabeen added.
The indoctrination: Love, discord
Jabeen is one of four sisters born into a Hanafi Sunni family of Hyderabad. Her father is a post-graduate in microbiology and her mother a science graduate. When she was three, her family migrated from Hyderabad to Abu Dhabi, where her father worked at a British firm for a brief period before opening a stationery and printing store, which he ran till 2002. Her mother taught at a school.
After schooling in Abu Dhabi, Jabeen came to Hyderabad in 1996 and stayed in the city for the next four years while she finished her BCom from Shadan College. It was after she had returned to Abu Dhabi that Jabeen met her future husband, who was a paying guest at their home for four-five months.
In 2002, after Jabeen’s younger sister had completed her Class XII, her family decided to return to India. Jabeen, however, stayed in touch with her Hindu friend, and when he proposed marriage, readily accepted.
Jabeen’s fiance travelled to India and embraced Islam, and the couple got married on September 29, 2002, as per Arya Samaj and Muslim traditions. For some time after their marriage, they stayed at her husband’s elder sister’s house in Hyderabad.
Jabeen admits she wasn’t religiously inclined till then. “I became one after my marriage, due to problems (in) my wedlock.”
The metamorphosis: Creation of Nicky Joseph
Sometime in 2003, while she was working as an international reservation clerk at a travel agency in Hyderabad, Jabeen had her eldest daughter. In 2006, her husband went to Dubai for work, and she moved to her parents’ house in Hyderabad, where she stayed for a year. She admitted her stay wasn’t easy. “My parents were dead against my marriage with a Hindu and we had strained relations since then.”
Her husband wanted them all to move to Dubai, but for that they had to get their passports renewed and to make one for their daughter. According to Jabeen, her husband faced problems with his passport and the Wakf Board had to intervene.
In Dubai, Jabeen said, their problems didn’t end. “(Our sponsor) demanded 10,000 dirhams to sponsor visas for us. Due to this, we did not get visas and stayed there illegally from 2009 onwards.”
It was then that Jabeen’s “online religious activity” began. “I was influenced by watching videos posted on YouTube of several famous Islamic scholars such as Zakir Naik… I subscribed my name in YouTube with Yahoo mail id as ‘Afta Zita’.”
“I was alone in the house after my husband and daughter went for work and school respectively. My husband (had) provided laptop and WiFi facility in our house for my time-pass. I used to sit in my house and started searching (the) Internet about Islamic religious literature. Till that time, I did not have in-depth knowledge of Islam, though Islamic studies was one of my subjects up to XII standard. After that I decided to improve my religious knowledge and started searching on the Internet for the same.”
Around that time, she also acquired a new name and identity, Nicky Joseph, of British origin.
The friendship: Entry of Salman Mohiuddin
One of her online comments on a video of Zakir Naik’s lecture was corrected by a Salman Mohiuddin, an engineer who had been forced to return to Hyderabad from the US in October 2014.
“Over a period of time, based on the comments posted by Salman Mohiuddin, I could understand that he has fair knowledge of Islam. Then, I started liking Salman and shared my Yahoo group ID with him and our relationship went on for some time. Regularly we used to share our views on YouTube and Yahoo group on various religious issues, up to 2010. With regard to opening and closing of accounts, technicalities were taught to me by Salman Mohiuddin,” Jabeen claimed.
She said she also told Mohiuddin that she was having problems in her marriage.
Between 2011 and 2013, there was a gap in Jabeen’s online activity. A hypo-thyroid patient, she delivered two daughters prematurely. “We suffered a lot financially as my babies were kept in incubators for two months each,” she recounted. “I was busily engaged with my two younger daughters as (a) lot of medical care was required for almost three years.”
Jabeen and her husband’s passports were kept by the hospital as security till they cleared their dues. “We were unable to take new passports in the names of our kids, visas and renew our passports. We owed huge amount to immigration authorities in Dubai for regularisation of our stay.”
In early 2013, Jabeen as Nicky Joseph created the Facebook group ‘Islam vs Christianity, a friendly discussion’. The group got 50,000 followers within a short span of time, and pro-IS news and photographs began being posted on the group.
The radicalisation: Propagating for IS
Jabeen has spoken of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a Caliphate on June 29, 2014, and ‘Operation Protective Edge’ launched by Israel in Gaza on July 8 last year as events that affected her. “Since then, I became more radicalised,” she said.
The Indian Express reported earlier that disclosures by Jabeen following her arrest led intelligence agencies to at least nine IS sympathisers in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kashmir who were “active members’’ on her Facebook group and are now under watch. She claimed to have converted four non-Muslims too to Islam.
She identified six administrators of her Facebook group “Islam Vs Christianity, a friendly discussion”, as well as 14 active members of the group based in India and abroad. Investigators say Jabeen and Mohiuddin floated several online groups to indoctrinate and recruit youths for the IS.
In January this year, Mohiuddin was arrested from Hyderabad’s international airport, while allegedly on his way to Dubai and onwards to Syria.
Eight months later, on September 11, Jabeen was deported by the UAE authorities for pro-IS activities. On landing at Hyderabad airport, she was arrested.
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