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

The Week (US) - - 24 - By Asne Seier­stad

(Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

What’s dis­turb­ing about the girls’ back­ground is “not its for­eign­ness but its com­fort­able or­di­nar­i­ness,” said Robin Yass­inKassab in The­Guardian.com. Ayan in par­tic­u­lar was a promis­ing stu­dent whose new­found piety at first looked like a typ­i­cal pass­ing teenage phase. But af­ter the sis­ters start study­ing un­der a fiery, charis­matic Qu­ran teacher, they are quickly rad­i­cal­ized. Once they flee, the story’s fo­cus shifts to Sadiq, who pays an arms smug­gler to help him get into Syria. The plan doesn’t work; Sadiq is ab­ducted by ISIS fight­ers and tor­tured when they de­cide he’s a spy.

Seier­stad wrote Two Sis­ters at Sadiq’s re­quest, to serve as a cau­tion­ary tale, said Parul Se­h­gal in The New York Times. That’s a laud­able goal, but Sadiq clearly is not a very re­li­able source, as he’s shown telling the press a num­ber of face-sav­ing lies—claim­ing, for ex­am­ple, that his daugh­ters, in­stead of re­ject­ing his help, had begged him to res­cue them. And be­cause Ayan’s and Leila’s voices are heard only in texts, emails, and the like, the sis­ters never come into full fo­cus. Though we get hints that they ul­ti­mately cared less about ISIS’s teach­ings than about the large home they were pro­vided in Syria, “this story of theirs is yet to be told.”

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