‘We don’t want children to grow up in UK’

ONE of three sisters believed to have taken their children to Syria “didn’t want her daughters to grow up in England”, a friend of hers has said.

Talha Asmal fled his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in March.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said in a BBC interview that she “didn’t like the UK” and thought England was becoming “more like America”.

Zohra Dawood and her sisters Khadija and Sugra, all from Bradford, went missing along with their nine children.

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Earlier, an Islamic State (IS) smuggler said they had now reached Syria.

Khadija Bibi Dawood with her children and Maryam Siddiqui and Zohra Dawood with her children Nurah Binte Zubair and Haafiyah Binte Zubair. Picture: PA

The friend of Zohra Dawood, who wanted to remain anonymous because she said she feared for her life, said the mother told her: “I don’t want my children living in this society.”

The friend added: “She says she wants to live in Saudi Arabia because she didn’t like the UK.”

Asked if she challenged Ms Dawood over her views, the friend said: “No, because by then Zohra completely ignored us. She didn’t talk to anyone. I don’t know what she was thinking.”

The friend also appealed for the return of the children. “Why has she taken them into a war zone? They were perfectly happy children. We’re all worried for the children,” she said.

The sisters and their children went missing after travelling to Saudi Arabia for a religious pilgrimage on 28 May.

Instead of flying home as their families expected, the group went missing and apparently flew to Turkey.

On Tuesday, two of their husbands made an emotional appeal for them to return.

Yesterday, an IS smuggler said that the sisters split into two groups to cross the border into Syria.

He said the first group went early on Wednesday and the second on Thursday.

The information fits with the news that Zohra sent a message to her family that she was inside Syria, but did not say exactly where.

The North East Counter Terrorism Unit said it was “continuing to make extensive inquiries” in order to try to bring the women and children home.

Prayers were said for the family at their local mosque in Bradford yesterday.

The parents of the women have said they do not support their actions and pleaded with others not to make a similar journey.

In a statement issued through police, the women’s parents and other family members said: “We do not support the actions of the sisters leaving their husbands and families in the UK and of taking their children into a war zone where life is not safe to join any group.

“We plea (sic) to anyone thinking about making a similar journey not to go.”

The sisters travelled to Medina with their nine children to go on a religious pilgrimage. They were due to return to the UK on 11 June, but broke off all contact with their family in Britain two days earlier on 9 June.

Their brother is believed to be fighting for IS in Syria and he reportedly persuaded his sisters over Skype to join him.

The husbands of two of the women reported them missing. They broke down as they told of their anguish earlier this week.