Seierstad, Asne. “Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad”, translated by Sean Kinsella, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.
Father Knows Best
“Two Sisters” is the story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq are two Somali immigrants who have moved to Norway and are raising their family there. One day their teenage daughters, Leila and Ayan vanished and the parents learn that they are on their way to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
This is an account of their journey, of their having left the secular democracy of Norway to the frontlines of embattled Syria and how their father tries to find and save them. Author Asne Seierstad looks at “radicalization in human terms, using instant messages and other primary sources to reconstruct a family’s crisis from the inside.” Sadiq risks his life in going to war-torn Syria to rescue his daughters and he is determined that they do not become a part of and disappear into ISIS even though both daughters married ISIS fighters. It is hard to believe that this is nonfiction and I found it impossible to look up from the pages while reading. Not only is this a thrilling read but it also has something to tell us in its lessons about belief, extremism, and the meaning of devotion.
The research and the writing re flawless just as the story is unbelievable (but true).” We cannot help but wonder how two teenaged sisters could leave their comfortable homes and lives in Norway to become the wives of ISIS terrorists in Syria The ultimate question that Seierstad asks and attempts to answer is “what leads ordinary people to become terrorists?”
We are not told what attracted the girls to Islamic radicalism or why they chose to leave Norway so we have to try to figure that out from the rest of the story. In more general terms, the book looks at the overall process of radicalization and the atmosphere that allows it to happen.
The activities of ISIS and the other Islamist rebels in Syria that we read about here are terrifying. What is strange is that even amid all of the chaos that was going on in Syria, the girls claimed to being happy and leading happy lives with their new husbands.
Of course, this is a one-sided look at the girls’ story since they refused to be interviewed so we only hear from Sadiq’s side. Nonetheless, this is a story that makes you sit up and take notice of the radicalization of today’s youth in the Muslim world (and out of it as well).