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Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad

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Two Sisters, by the international bestselling author Asne Seierstad, tells the unforgettable story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq and Sara, Somali immigrants raising a family in Norway, one day discover that their teenage daughters Leila and Ayan have vanished--and are en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. Seierstad's riveting account traces the sisters' journey Two Sisters, by the international bestselling author Asne Seierstad, tells the unforgettable story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq and Sara, Somali immigrants raising a family in Norway, one day discover that their teenage daughters Leila and Ayan have vanished--and are en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. Seierstad's riveting account traces the sisters' journey from secular, social democratic Norway to the front lines of the war in Syria, and follows Sadiq's harrowing attempt to find them. Employing the same mastery of narrative suspense she brought to The Bookseller of Kabul and One of Us, Seierstad puts the problem of radicalization into painfully human terms, using instant messages and other primary sources to reconstruct a family's crisis from the inside. Eventually, she takes us into the hellscape of the Syrian civil war, as Sadiq risks his life in pursuit of his daughters, refusing to let them disappear into the maelstrom--even after they marry ISIS fighters. Two Sisters is a relentless thriller and a feat of reporting with profound lessons about belief, extremism, and the meaning of devotion.


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Two Sisters, by the international bestselling author Asne Seierstad, tells the unforgettable story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq and Sara, Somali immigrants raising a family in Norway, one day discover that their teenage daughters Leila and Ayan have vanished--and are en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. Seierstad's riveting account traces the sisters' journey Two Sisters, by the international bestselling author Asne Seierstad, tells the unforgettable story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq and Sara, Somali immigrants raising a family in Norway, one day discover that their teenage daughters Leila and Ayan have vanished--and are en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. Seierstad's riveting account traces the sisters' journey from secular, social democratic Norway to the front lines of the war in Syria, and follows Sadiq's harrowing attempt to find them. Employing the same mastery of narrative suspense she brought to The Bookseller of Kabul and One of Us, Seierstad puts the problem of radicalization into painfully human terms, using instant messages and other primary sources to reconstruct a family's crisis from the inside. Eventually, she takes us into the hellscape of the Syrian civil war, as Sadiq risks his life in pursuit of his daughters, refusing to let them disappear into the maelstrom--even after they marry ISIS fighters. Two Sisters is a relentless thriller and a feat of reporting with profound lessons about belief, extremism, and the meaning of devotion.

30 review for Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    Two Somalian sisters, Ayan and Leila, grown up in Norway, take off to Syria at 19 and 16 years old. They want to help ISIS with their cause and live in a proper Muslim state. What could possibly have motivated them to do such a thing? How could the parents not notice? This is a shockingly relevant story and Ayan and Leila's parents are brave to share it, maybe it can help someone else. The book gives deep insight into the family dynamics. It also show the gradual radicalization of Ayan and Leila Two Somalian sisters, Ayan and Leila, grown up in Norway, take off to Syria at 19 and 16 years old. They want to help ISIS with their cause and live in a proper Muslim state. What could possibly have motivated them to do such a thing? How could the parents not notice? This is a shockingly relevant story and Ayan and Leila's parents are brave to share it, maybe it can help someone else. The book gives deep insight into the family dynamics. It also show the gradual radicalization of Ayan and Leila through their Quran teacher and Islam.net. Before they were normal teenagers with Norwegian friends and revealing clothing. Before long, Ayan and Leila show up to school in niqab. They refuse to participate in gym. They lose touch with their Norwegian friends. When relevant and necessary the story paints the larger picture of the history of the Syrian civil war and how things went so desperately wrong in Iraq after Saddam Hussein. The author does her best, but I still find it difficult to understand how two young women brought up in the safety of Scandinavia could get so brainwashed that they prefer to move to a war zone. This is also unfathomable to their family. It eventually becomes abundantly clear that Ayan and Leila have left by their own free will and by their own free will refuse to ask for help to return. Good riddance. Poor parents. There is no happy ending. There is certainly a lot to think about. How do you stop radicalization without infringing on religious freedom? How do you even approach the subject without encouraging xenophobia, or more precisely, islamophobia?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    "What causes two girls, who are good students, who are ambitious, and who fled from war when young, to seek out way again and submit to the strict control of the Islamic State?" (p.447) This is the question, almost closing this book, which actually launches it as Åsne Seierstad investigates the story of two teenaged sisters, here called Ayan and Leila who 19 and 16 years old respectively left their family and set off to Syria to join the group which would later become as Islamic State. The family "What causes two girls, who are good students, who are ambitious, and who fled from war when young, to seek out way again and submit to the strict control of the Islamic State?" (p.447) This is the question, almost closing this book, which actually launches it as Åsne Seierstad investigates the story of two teenaged sisters, here called Ayan and Leila who 19 and 16 years old respectively left their family and set off to Syria to join the group which would later become as Islamic State. The family was Somali and had been settled in Norway for some years. The children had been going to Norwegian schools and the the two eldest girls had been doing well there. The book traces their path to radicalisation or self radicalisation, but since they did not respond to Seirstad's requests to get involved in her book project, they drop out of the account and never tell their side of the story, we are left grasping at the details that Seierstad uncovers. Thereafter the story picks up the father's attempts to 'rescue' his daughters from Syria. It is a compelling and fascinating tale, I am not sure that it has changed my intuitive answer to Seierstad's question (view spoiler)[ because they wanted to (view spoiler)[ or if you prefer a more considered answer , because it was meaningful to them (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] but I was amused to note that the radical Islamists analysis of the wrongs of western society seemed largely to match the analysis of the further right who tended to be anti-Islamic: too much feminism, drugs, homosexuality, and a general want of discipline are causing the destruction of society and the only answer is old time religion. Fortunately so far both groups regard each other as savage infidels, which saves us from living under an Abrahamic theocracy. It strikes me that compared to some cases in the media that the radicalisation of the sisters was relatively slow, there were also other girls in their social circle who seemed to be on much the same path as them but who did not reach the same destination. Finally that the aspirations of the girls were in a way domestic, and even family orientated. The lives they led in the Islamic State are as housewives, they transition from wanting to help out in the Syrian civil war to making pancakes for their husbands to eat with nutella (view spoiler)[ other brands of chocolate spread are available (hide spoiler)] . They tell their brother that they are given a house with white goods and that healthcare is state provided - ie much the same kind of life they could have had in Norway if they had married early (view spoiler)[ though in Norway they would not have been in a war zone (hide spoiler)] . From this we can sense that psychology, in particular their motivation and the branding of Islamic State is the crucial factor, certainly they believed that if they died in Syria that not only would they go to Paradise themselves but they could also co-opt seventy others to join them there. They could frame their action of running away from their family as a sacrifice which would save their family and their friends from perdition. Seierstad's book though offers no conclusion, and no analyses, she simply lays out the results of her investigations and research, though naturally it points in certain directions. I don't think this is a book that offers easy answers, it is above all a very sad tale, and a sad tale's best for winter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This is the story of two sisters who left their home in Norway to join the jihad in Syria. Asne Seierstad describes them, their families, and their life in an out of school. Other Norwegian Moslem activists are profiled. Seierstadt shows how the distraught family responds and the efforts of the father to bring the girls back. I’ve often wondered how the children of immigrants cope with the dynamics of high school in their adopted countries. One of the best chapters (in this book of very good chap This is the story of two sisters who left their home in Norway to join the jihad in Syria. Asne Seierstad describes them, their families, and their life in an out of school. Other Norwegian Moslem activists are profiled. Seierstadt shows how the distraught family responds and the efforts of the father to bring the girls back. I’ve often wondered how the children of immigrants cope with the dynamics of high school in their adopted countries. One of the best chapters (in this book of very good chapters) shows the coping of the sisters and their friends. Most of this group can check two boxes for their outsider status: Muslim and non-white. It seems that they use their religion as both a justification and a motivation for fighting against the non-Moslem world which they do not feel part of. In the lower grades the sisters did well but were aloof from their peers. They had what seemed to be well rounded childhoods. Once in high school (Ayan was selected for one of the best schools), their primary social life revolved around the Mosque and their “religious education” which was provided by young men who are barely literate. Perhaps in the Moslem community it is not unusual to see daughters who once played soccer become fully covered and self-righteously pray 5 times a day. In their online lives the girls sound like any other teenagers, with no awareness of the fire they are playing with. In the course of this book, in their social set, a girl/woman is beaten to death (actually she dies of a heart attack while being beaten in something that looks like an exorcism), a baby is similarly beaten to death and others become casualties of the jihad. If the story of the “friends” in Norway isn’t spectacular (and it is) the story of the father’s journey to get them back is. In it you learn a bit of border crossing and the smuggling trade. The brutality of his daughters’ “protectors” is so bad, you just wonder: “Why don’t they just kill him?” There are schemes and deals and the father sinks deeper and deeper in debt. All the while there are intermittent calls and texts from the daughters extolling life in the caliphate. They are living in what sounds like luxury houses abandoned by those who fled. They boast of modern appliances and that electricity and everything else is free. The women live together and help each with cooking and children while the men are away fighting the infidels. The mother cried and cried and retreated with the two youngest boys to her family in Somaliland. A brother, Ismael, whom I remember as being between the two girls in age, has integrated into Norwegian life and is shown to be using the opportunities an open society provides. He challenges his sisters in pithy and pungent text messages that his sisters answer in platitudes. You can’t help but feel for this father who brought his family to Norway for a better life as he sees his daughters throw it away, and perhaps their lives as well. He sees his wife in a catatonic state before taking the two younger boys away from the good education they would have in Norway to Hargeisa where school is not a priority and they play football with a plastic bottle. Years ago I read the author’s The Bookseller of Kabul. I see she has since written about Anders Breveik and those who lived through the Milosevic regime. Both my Seierstad reads (Two Sisters and Bookseller) stand out, suggesting I need to read more of her work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Berit Lundqvist

    Four and a half stars, rounded up. The radicalization process can be compared to a tunnel. Either you go through the tunnel and come out radicalized on the other side, or you turn around and get out in the direction you originally came from. Åsne Seierstad’s book Two Sisters turned out touch me at a much more personal level, than I thought it would. I expected it to be a book about the war in Syria. It wasn’t. Instead, it was a book about the process of radicalization. I have a younger Jewish relat Four and a half stars, rounded up. The radicalization process can be compared to a tunnel. Either you go through the tunnel and come out radicalized on the other side, or you turn around and get out in the direction you originally came from. Åsne Seierstad’s book Two Sisters turned out touch me at a much more personal level, than I thought it would. I expected it to be a book about the war in Syria. It wasn’t. Instead, it was a book about the process of radicalization. I have a younger Jewish relative, who back in the days struggled a little in life. School was too hard, and she didn’t really know what to do with her life. One day, she suddenly decided to become a Zionist, went to Israel to live in a kibbutz, and attended training in both krav maga and machine-gun-shooting. That went on for a while. Her parents weren’t amused. Then there was a conflict with Lebanon. Bombs and grenades started to fall. Suddenly Zionism wasn’t as interesting anymore. She packed her things and went home again. Today she eats pork without hesitation. Ayan and Leila Juma, two ordinary Norwegian-Somali sisters, didn’t make the same choice. They came out on the other side of the tunnel. After gradually being radicalized in Norway, through contacts with a Quran teacher and an Islamic youth organization, they one day decided to run away in order to join ISIS in Syria. Their family didn’t see this coming and is of course devastated, and the father decides to go to Syria to convince them to come back. He doesn’t succeed. To Ayan and Leila, Syria is the only place where they could live the sort of life the Quran dictated for women. “We want so much to help Muslims, and the only way we can really do this is by being with them in both suffering and joy … and help out there as best we can.” The girls were not typical for people who are radicalized. They did well in school, and had friends. For them it seemed to have been more of a fanatic religious awakening. Normally, between 60 and 70 percent of the ISIS recruits have a criminal background. Many of them lack education, and think ISIS can give them a fresh start in life. Push and pull - the mechanism or radicalization. Pushed out from one way of life, pulled into another. Everything about this story is so heart-breaking and sad, even if the book is written in a very non-emotional way. Seierstad is just observing, not judging. She has reconstructed the whole chain of events through interviews, chat conversations with their brother and friends, and internet research. Who are Ayan and Leila? What really went on in their minds? What made them leave the security of a small Norwegian town for Syria and ISIS? The reader can also follow the family back in Norway as they fall deeper into mental and financial decay. I watched some clips from the Norwegian television to find out what happened to Ayan and Leila after the book was published. The last time the family heard from them was in August 2016. Since then ISIS territory has been heavily bombed. Their father has never lost hope, but their brother says he thinks they are probably dead. “Maybe that would be the best thing. We need to get closure and get on with our lives.” Edit: Ayan’s friend Aisha survived, and is now in the the Al-Hol camp. Her son is seriously ill in cystic fibrosis. The political conflict, whether to bring them back or not, has brought down the Norwegian coalition gevernment.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Between the guilty pleasure fiction and mysteries I love reading non-fiction. There were years where that’s all I read and I’ve come to have a particular taste when it comes to it. It needs to flow and it needs to feel like a story. It needs to feel personal and close. Unfortunately, this didn’t. The story is about two sisters from Somalia, growing up in a small town outside Oslo in Norway who become radicalized and flee to Syria to join the Islamic state. Since I myself come from this small town Between the guilty pleasure fiction and mysteries I love reading non-fiction. There were years where that’s all I read and I’ve come to have a particular taste when it comes to it. It needs to flow and it needs to feel like a story. It needs to feel personal and close. Unfortunately, this didn’t. The story is about two sisters from Somalia, growing up in a small town outside Oslo in Norway who become radicalized and flee to Syria to join the Islamic state. Since I myself come from this small town and I went to the same school as these girls, I was intrigued, who wouldn’t be? Now I see all praises go out to this author by the norwegian media and by all means, I recognize the massive task it must have been to piece together all the details of this story. She’s interviewed many people, read through countless correspondence and laid out an objective and factual map of accounts. And that’s exactly what it feels like. A factsheet. There is little to none emotion in this book, if not for the desperate father chasing his daughters down and trying to get them home. Unfortunately, his material is scarce and the rest is just boring. But do I still have faith in this book? Yes, I do. I believe this book is useful and excellent in trying to help family, friends and society as a whole keep their eyes open and know what to look for. It’s not like these girls were radicalized in a day and just left. They had been planning this for a whole year! They knew what they were doing! The school noticed, the teachers, the friends, the community and the family, but nobody did anything, and why not? Or why should they? Just because people start acting differently, what are you supposed to do about it? This book is great for giving you the warning signals, now it’s up to us to figure out what to do when we see them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Ayan, 19, and Leila, 16, two young Somali Muslim girls, living an outwardly happy and ordinary life in Oslo, walked out of their home as on any other school morning but on this occasion never came back. They later contacted their parents to say that they were on their way to Syria to help ISIS. In a compelling account, which reads much of the time like a thriller, Seierstad explores how it came about that two much-loved daughters, living a very westernized life-style, became so radicalized that Ayan, 19, and Leila, 16, two young Somali Muslim girls, living an outwardly happy and ordinary life in Oslo, walked out of their home as on any other school morning but on this occasion never came back. They later contacted their parents to say that they were on their way to Syria to help ISIS. In a compelling account, which reads much of the time like a thriller, Seierstad explores how it came about that two much-loved daughters, living a very westernized life-style, became so radicalized that they were willing to risk all for their new-found cause. The girls had become radicalised over a number of months and although their parents were aware that they were becoming stricter in their beliefs and religious practices had no idea they had been brainwashed to such an extent. Their father followed them to try to rescue them, putting himself in great danger, but they didn’t want to be rescued, and to date (April 2018) they remain somewhere in the region. Islamic State has collapsed and the fighters and their families scattered. The girls were last heard of in Raqqa. No one has heard from them for some time. This is a really fascinating exploration of how radicalisation works, and tries to explain the attraction for so many young people who have become disillusioned by secular society and tempted by what they see as a better and purer way of living. Written with the full cooperation of the Juma family, we see how their devastated parents and siblings cope with the fall-out from the girls’ defection and the effect it has had on each of them. Although their family were practising Muslims, they never held extreme beliefs and only in retrospect could they see that anything was wrong. Seierstad’s research is meticulous and thorough. She remains on the outside looking in and the reader can make their own conclusions. She offers no explanations but just the facts. The author doesn’t judge and it became increasingly clear to me that I couldn’t judge the family either. The nightmare that began on that morning in 2013 continues. This is an important and very relevant book and will be of interest to anyone who finds fundamentalist Islam – or indeed any fundamentalism – bewildering and largely inexplicable. The book gives us a glimpse into a world that we usually only get to know in the headlines. Extreme Islam is not open to argument or debate and we fail to acknowledge that to our peril. This book can at least help us understand it a little better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    JitkaJen

    Chilling story about one real family who went through a real nightmare. I've read a Czech translation which is really good - the book brings a picture of parents who did their best and still their daughters find themselves in radical version of islam and without letting their family know they traveled to the Syria to join the IS. The author is skilled journalist and she is writing with light hand about heavy topics. The book is perfectly balanced between the personal story of Juma family and the Chilling story about one real family who went through a real nightmare. I've read a Czech translation which is really good - the book brings a picture of parents who did their best and still their daughters find themselves in radical version of islam and without letting their family know they traveled to the Syria to join the IS. The author is skilled journalist and she is writing with light hand about heavy topics. The book is perfectly balanced between the personal story of Juma family and the facts about the origin and activities of the so called Islamic state. I was so moved by the life stories of actors, by the death of kids and by the fate of the parents and siblings of Ayan and Leila. The book has a lot of to tell even though the existence of the IS is slowly fading into the past. And I am wondering if the girls and their kids are still alive. A great piece for everyone who is interested in radicalization, question of intergration of immigrants, political islam and actual war in Syria.

  8. 4 out of 5

    marta (sezon literacki)

    While reading this book I was angry. I was frustrated. I was sad. But most of all, I was terrified.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    This book must have been a massive undertaking for the author. It is detailed and thorough in it’s exploration of the ramifications of two sister’s move to ISIS in Syria. The family that remains behind in Norway is forever fractured. Each family member deals with the girl’s choices differently. This is at the heart of the story. The reader is also invited to consider the sister’s perspectives as they transition into true believers. In some respects the book is a page turner and hard to put down This book must have been a massive undertaking for the author. It is detailed and thorough in it’s exploration of the ramifications of two sister’s move to ISIS in Syria. The family that remains behind in Norway is forever fractured. Each family member deals with the girl’s choices differently. This is at the heart of the story. The reader is also invited to consider the sister’s perspectives as they transition into true believers. In some respects the book is a page turner and hard to put down as you want to learn the final outcome. I won’t give it away as it would tear a huge hole in the fabric of the story. I felt empathy for the father and oldest brother, especially the brother. It is so easy to understand his response to ‘losing” his sisters. This is well worth reading should you want to better understand the call of fundamentalism, family dynamics around loss, or the war in Syria. Well written, never boring, and able to provide me with the feeling that I’d gained a lot of knowledge without any pain.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    Brilliant! Unbelievable story. Decided to read this book after reading a great review about it in one of The Weekend Australians. A well researched and well documented subject and the whole story (by Asne Sierestad) about 2 Somali girls who left their family (Somali refugees) in Norway, for Syria and joined ISIS. Their father, Sadiq Juma, tried everything to find them and persuade them to return home, even travelled to Syria a few times, made some contacts.... I really like this book because Asne Brilliant! Unbelievable story. Decided to read this book after reading a great review about it in one of The Weekend Australians. A well researched and well documented subject and the whole story (by Asne Sierestad) about 2 Somali girls who left their family (Somali refugees) in Norway, for Syria and joined ISIS. Their father, Sadiq Juma, tried everything to find them and persuade them to return home, even travelled to Syria a few times, made some contacts.... I really like this book because Asne Seierstad wrote about everything, not only about ISIS and JIHAD, but also about love, marriage, bringing up children in a foreign country, immigration, Somalis, Norway, education in Norway, friendships, possibilities and treatment of refugees, finances... Not a pleasant read at all, outstandingly well written, engaging, hard to put down, disappointing. I learned a lot. Will read more books by Asne Sierestad.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carolin

    4.25 stars. A great read. With all the suspense, wanting to know how the story ends for the sisters and their father/family, it felt like watching some family/war movie, and you forget that it's a non fiction - this reality for many people. It's a gripping human story, and you once again realize that the war, the conflict i Syria is very complicated. I knew about the author, but this is my first book by her, and I enjoyed it very much. I liked her investigating(she is reporter so..) writing style 4.25 stars. A great read. With all the suspense, wanting to know how the story ends for the sisters and their father/family, it felt like watching some family/war movie, and you forget that it's a non fiction - this reality for many people. It's a gripping human story, and you once again realize that the war, the conflict i Syria is very complicated. I knew about the author, but this is my first book by her, and I enjoyed it very much. I liked her investigating(she is reporter so..) writing style with lots of facts and background/history about the war in Syria, ISIS etc. So, off to check out her other books!

  12. 5 out of 5

    JulieK

    Tries to be an inside look at radicalization, although since the two sisters did not cooperate with the project, the insights into the process are limited. The book was also at least a hundred pages too long, as the author felt she needed to include every single bit of research she did along with many repetitive conversations. Certainly not the “thriller” promised by the book jacket. 2.5 stars.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Amazing book about a refugee Somali family in Norway shocked by two daughters who run off to join ISIS in Syria. The parents call the police and notify the government but it is slow to stop the girls flying to different destinations eventually to Turkey and across the Syrian border. The father is determined to rescue them and engages the media, a documentary film maker, old friends and anyone he can find to help him. The older brother becomes discouraged but continues to attend school and pursue Amazing book about a refugee Somali family in Norway shocked by two daughters who run off to join ISIS in Syria. The parents call the police and notify the government but it is slow to stop the girls flying to different destinations eventually to Turkey and across the Syrian border. The father is determined to rescue them and engages the media, a documentary film maker, old friends and anyone he can find to help him. The older brother becomes discouraged but continues to attend school and pursue career goals. The mother tends to fall apart eventually moving to Somaliland with the two youngest children. Looking back on how the girls were radicalized, the father discovers an imam named Mustafa who was teaching Arabic to his oldest children at the mosque. While the mother seemed to think her daughters were just becoming more devout, the oldest son saw the imam as holding death as a higher state than life and jihad and better than life in their new country. The son was turned off by the imam while the girls began wearing more traditional Muslim clothes including the niqab. The parents failed to recognize how extreme the girls were getting about Islam while watching one daughter advocating tolerance of the niqab in Norwegian society. The father races to Syria to rescue the daughters and fights for years for their return. The mother accepts that they weren’t kidnapped but is caught between her struggle in learning a new language and culture and a desire for more familiar place to live. The daughters on the other hand seem to be pleased with their chosen lives with husbands and children. Or are they?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Denisa Arsene

    I've read this book with mixed feelings. I can't really understand the trajectory of their fanatism. As I understand it's - unfortunately- a true story. I don't know the development ofthe story. But they seem to come from a nice family, raised into a free country...what could be wrong there? What goes wrong everytime? I've read this book with mixed feelings. I can't really understand the trajectory of their fanatism. As I understand it's - unfortunately- a true story. I don't know the development ofthe story. But they seem to come from a nice family, raised into a free country...what could be wrong there? What goes wrong everytime?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Iselin Rønningsbakk

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a true, very interesting and sad story about two Norwegian-Somali teenage girls ran away from their family in Norway to join ISIS in Syria. The author tries to understand why and how the girls became radicalised, and explains in detail how the family grieved after their girls ran away.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Helene Barmen

    Now that I have finished this book I am left with somewhat of an understanding of why two young girls, 19 and 16 years old, would leave their parents and the life the parents fled Somalia to give them to become a part of the Islamic State. But even though my mind can understand, my heart can't and as a parents myself my heart cries for all the people who suffered loses in this story. The book does a great job of describing the process leading up to them leaving and the devastation resulting from Now that I have finished this book I am left with somewhat of an understanding of why two young girls, 19 and 16 years old, would leave their parents and the life the parents fled Somalia to give them to become a part of the Islamic State. But even though my mind can understand, my heart can't and as a parents myself my heart cries for all the people who suffered loses in this story. The book does a great job of describing the process leading up to them leaving and the devastation resulting from their choices. But it also deals with the all the surrounding circumstances and I learned a lot about the conflict in Syria and about Islamic extremism. Åsne Seierstad is an impressive journalist and writer and I admire her sense of detail and ability to get access to all the people that made telling this story possible.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nahom Tamerat

    Anyone who's ever wondered how someone from Europe would go to a war thorn place such as Syria is, to join IS should read this book. You'll find the answer. It's an absolute page turner and will shine light on how one gets radicalized. It demonstrates the power of belief, convictions and dogmatism. It's a warning post for anyone dabbling in fundamentalism and for people around them who are in a position to see the early signs and perhaps try to prevent it. Bottom line, do yourself a favor and just Anyone who's ever wondered how someone from Europe would go to a war thorn place such as Syria is, to join IS should read this book. You'll find the answer. It's an absolute page turner and will shine light on how one gets radicalized. It demonstrates the power of belief, convictions and dogmatism. It's a warning post for anyone dabbling in fundamentalism and for people around them who are in a position to see the early signs and perhaps try to prevent it. Bottom line, do yourself a favor and just read the book!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Justina

    This book helps to have a better understanding of the news that were covered in media almost daily and to get a grasp what is really happening in the Middle East. While telling the story of the one family, the author made a thorough research on the hot issue.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    There is no joy in this book, it is not a happy story, the content of this book is tormenting, frustrating and agonizing. It is however, a story that must be told and shared. I feel infinitely more informed after reading it, on a range of different subjects, including radicalization and the factors that can contribute to youth at risk, the war in Syria and Iraq, the Assad regime, IS, Somali refugees in Norway. and the pain and suffering inflicted on families of radicalized children. The scenes d There is no joy in this book, it is not a happy story, the content of this book is tormenting, frustrating and agonizing. It is however, a story that must be told and shared. I feel infinitely more informed after reading it, on a range of different subjects, including radicalization and the factors that can contribute to youth at risk, the war in Syria and Iraq, the Assad regime, IS, Somali refugees in Norway. and the pain and suffering inflicted on families of radicalized children. The scenes describing horrific violence towards women and children I found particularly disturbing, also the stories of children being raised to hate non Muslim extremists and to participate in public executions as part of training to fight for IS. It is a book I would only recommend to someone if they were interested in learning about the issues I described, its not for the feint hearted. Well researched and substantiated by the author in the final chapter and great job on the translation into English.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    In October 2013, Ayan and Leila, two teenage sisters of Somali descent, left their family's home in Oslo to travel to Syria and join IS. This book, based on extensive interviews with their family and friends as well as detailed research recounts their upbringing and path to radicalization, their journey, what is known of their lives in Syria, their father's many failed attempts to bring them home, and the devastating impact of their choices on their family. A compelling, eye-opening read. In October 2013, Ayan and Leila, two teenage sisters of Somali descent, left their family's home in Oslo to travel to Syria and join IS. This book, based on extensive interviews with their family and friends as well as detailed research recounts their upbringing and path to radicalization, their journey, what is known of their lives in Syria, their father's many failed attempts to bring them home, and the devastating impact of their choices on their family. A compelling, eye-opening read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bree Beauregard

    This book, while falling under the non-fiction category, reads almost like a novel. It revolves around the story of one Somali family in Norway, but actually touches the broader themes of religion, otherness, and radicalization. Centering the story around just a handful of people while weaving in details about the broader conflicts, history and politics made it that much easier to grasp the role of religion in today’s world. Two sisters, 19 and 16, leave Norway, where their parents had emigrated This book, while falling under the non-fiction category, reads almost like a novel. It revolves around the story of one Somali family in Norway, but actually touches the broader themes of religion, otherness, and radicalization. Centering the story around just a handful of people while weaving in details about the broader conflicts, history and politics made it that much easier to grasp the role of religion in today’s world. Two sisters, 19 and 16, leave Norway, where their parents had emigrated following conflict in their native Somalia, to join ISIS and go on jihad. The book explores the girls’ radicalization through their Quran teacher, Islam.net and friends. While their father tries to get them back from ISIS, against their wishes, the story explores the power of religion, of conviction, and the powerlessness of outsiders. The girls’ family, are moderate muslims (one brother is an atheist) and the book is as much about their struggle to understand this radicalization, and through it, our own inaptitude to grasp the powerful influence of religion. The story is well-written and easy to follow, since it is almost prose, seen through the eyes of the girls’ family and friends. It is at times even a scary story, when one knows all the horrors ISIS has committed (arguably the most sadistic terrorist group). To see young girls, who were not raise in a religiously radical household, willingly leave a country like Norway to go in the midst of battle and join ISIS was beyond disconcerting. What I found was lacking to truly understand the pull of Islamic radicalization was an exploration (however brief) of the Quran, the hadith and the life of Muhammad. I have studied this subject and found it to be the most enlightening information to understand why more Muslims become violently radicalized than people of other faiths. The Quran has more than twice violent passages as the Bible (in percentage) and that’s without taking into account the Hadith, and the history of the Prophet Muhammad, who waged wars to gain political power for himself. While the majority Muslims do not take the sacred texts literally, or don’t even read them (also like most Christians), there is much in Islam that praises violence and going on jihad. This, in my opinion, is an important piece of the puzzle that could have been more covered in the book. Overall, the book was not only well researched but also had an original way of making non-fiction feel like fiction. It was enjoyable and enlightening, and it showed well the differences between Muslims and extremists, which is often not well-depicted in the media, leading to tensions between cultures. Go read it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trish Clark

    Very well researched and detailed true story of the radicalisation of 2 Somali, Muslim sisters.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    A tragic but important story.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Resalo

    4.5 stars. In my opinion Seierstad is one of the best investigative journalists in the field. Based on the request of Somali immigrant father Sadiq Juma, Seierstad investigated the flight of Sadiq's two teenage daughters, Leia and Ayan to ISIS controlled territory in Syria in 2013. The book is meticulously researched as Seierstad delves into the radicalization of the 2 girls while still living in Norway. In the process she interviews their friends, members of their mosque, classmates, teachers a 4.5 stars. In my opinion Seierstad is one of the best investigative journalists in the field. Based on the request of Somali immigrant father Sadiq Juma, Seierstad investigated the flight of Sadiq's two teenage daughters, Leia and Ayan to ISIS controlled territory in Syria in 2013. The book is meticulously researched as Seierstad delves into the radicalization of the 2 girls while still living in Norway. In the process she interviews their friends, members of their mosque, classmates, teachers as well as family members. She chronicles numerous trips by Sadiq into ISIS controlled territory within Syria, including one episode where he is imprisoned by ISIS and narrowly escapes execution. The book captures the family anguish and despair when they finally realize that their daughters may never return to them. Many questions go unanswered in this book. The most important being "Why did the 2 Somali Norwegian girls leave the comforts of Norway and a loving family to live in a brutal war zone?"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Georgina Kelly

    I read the English translation of this book. I'm not sure I like this kind of "docu-fiction" particularly as a genre. it certainly provided me with a simple but broad understanding of the evolution of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and thus was enjoyably informative. but my own intolerance of fundamentalism (of any kind) made descriptions of the development of the Norwegian kids' radicalisation hard to read. I just wanted to give them a good smack quite frankly. but then I have a general in I read the English translation of this book. I'm not sure I like this kind of "docu-fiction" particularly as a genre. it certainly provided me with a simple but broad understanding of the evolution of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and thus was enjoyably informative. but my own intolerance of fundamentalism (of any kind) made descriptions of the development of the Norwegian kids' radicalisation hard to read. I just wanted to give them a good smack quite frankly. but then I have a general intolerance of youth celebrating it's own stupidity. overall however the novel provided many of the cause/effect dynamics surrounding this current catastrophe, and the fictionalised parts were convincingly woven. the utter destruction of a family system when the two girls reasoned that jihad was a great way to god was sensitively wrought. a family torn abart by versions of god and what it is to be devout.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I was expecting this book to give more insight as to why the sisters ran away from Norway to Syria, but in reality this is the fathers story, and the book does a good job of relating the story from his perspective. The author is a journalist and she has painstakingly sifted through what must have been thousands of emails, text messages and so on to give us a sense of how little the family understood the sisters motives and actions, and what was happening at any one time, while at the same time s I was expecting this book to give more insight as to why the sisters ran away from Norway to Syria, but in reality this is the fathers story, and the book does a good job of relating the story from his perspective. The author is a journalist and she has painstakingly sifted through what must have been thousands of emails, text messages and so on to give us a sense of how little the family understood the sisters motives and actions, and what was happening at any one time, while at the same time showing us an overall timeline. Sadiq’s desperation and his sense of betrayal is well portrayed, as is the bewilderment and perhaps cynical disbelief of the eldest son. The female members of the family are less forthcoming and therefore less relatable. It’s a good book to read and there is a lot of information about life in Syria in the recent past. And as Sadiq says, if this can happen to us it can happen to anybody.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    While the pacing overall was decent, the writing on a sentence-by-sentence level seemed rushed and slapdash. Part of my motivation for reading this was to solidify the Islamic concepts introduced in No God But God and while I met with moderate success on that account, I’m not sure it was worth it. It’s hard to know how much to blame on the translation. I didn’t connect with the characters at all. I was merely reminded what desperate, rash creatures teenagers are. The author did manage to sneak i While the pacing overall was decent, the writing on a sentence-by-sentence level seemed rushed and slapdash. Part of my motivation for reading this was to solidify the Islamic concepts introduced in No God But God and while I met with moderate success on that account, I’m not sure it was worth it. It’s hard to know how much to blame on the translation. I didn’t connect with the characters at all. I was merely reminded what desperate, rash creatures teenagers are. The author did manage to sneak in some surprises, though, and illuminated some of the smuggling and detainment secrets of that particular time and place. Only one sequence was what I’d call terrifying. Sometimes I was eager to pick this up, but more often not. It really lost steam toward the end.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alyson Edenborough

    This is a heavy read requiring a lot of concentration, but it is well worth the investment. A tragic story which the author has researched and presented in commendable detail. I was shocked to learn partway through the book how young Sadiq was, not that I think there is a right age to be a parent of children run off to join the caliphate, but realising that he was actually close in age to myself made these events all the more tragically real. How on earth do you deal with something like this, I This is a heavy read requiring a lot of concentration, but it is well worth the investment. A tragic story which the author has researched and presented in commendable detail. I was shocked to learn partway through the book how young Sadiq was, not that I think there is a right age to be a parent of children run off to join the caliphate, but realising that he was actually close in age to myself made these events all the more tragically real. How on earth do you deal with something like this, I really hope that Asne Seierstad's shining some light on this family's experience will prevent other families from having to find out. Excellent book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Rivetting, horrifying, heartbreaking. The appalling 'logic' of religious fundamentalism and the damage to families in the wake left behind is shown in a clear headed manner. For parents who have fled war to then have children who then travel toward another theatre of war would break the strongest of us. For a religious dogma to over ride love is obscene. All praise to the author and the parents for sharing their story to help us understand. Rivetting, horrifying, heartbreaking. The appalling 'logic' of religious fundamentalism and the damage to families in the wake left behind is shown in a clear headed manner. For parents who have fled war to then have children who then travel toward another theatre of war would break the strongest of us. For a religious dogma to over ride love is obscene. All praise to the author and the parents for sharing their story to help us understand.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Breeze

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Not as good as "One of Us" but still riveting. Got lost in all the explanations of the changing alliances and politics and the ending was such a sad commentary on the endless iterations of history in the Middle East. As sappy as it is, I wanted a happily ever after ending thus my rating is more related to hoping for a good outcome rather than anything to do with the author. Asne Seierstad is a great journalist. Not as good as "One of Us" but still riveting. Got lost in all the explanations of the changing alliances and politics and the ending was such a sad commentary on the endless iterations of history in the Middle East. As sappy as it is, I wanted a happily ever after ending thus my rating is more related to hoping for a good outcome rather than anything to do with the author. Asne Seierstad is a great journalist.

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