Aqsa Mahmood

Aqsa Mahmood is a Scottish propagandist and recruiter for ISIS. In 2013, then-19-year-old Mahmood reportedly left her Glasgow home and moved to ISIS-held territory in Syria. Mahmood has propagandized for ISIS on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Tumblr.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/;
Aqsa Mahmood, Tumblr page, accessed September 10, 2015, http://fa-tubalilghuraba.tumblr.com/.
British authorities suspect that Mahmood used social media to help radicalize British teenagers Shamima Begum, Khadiza Sultana, and Amira Abase, who left their homes for ISIS-held territory in February 2015.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/. Mahmood is also suspected of holding a senior role in the all-female al-Khansaa Brigade in Raqqa, Syria, which is reportedly responsible for enforcing female moral behavior.Gavin Madley, “Heartbroken and hopeless: Parents of Scottish jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood tell of their devastation at losing her to ISIS brainwashing,” Daily Mail (London), February 21, 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3457741/Heartbroken-hopeless-Parents-Scottish-jihadi-bride-Aqsa-Mahmood-tell-devastation-losing-ISIS-brainwashing.html. Mahmood was reportedly killed during the fall of the ISIS’s so-called caliphate in February 2019.Brendan Mcginty, Dan Warburton, and Patrick Hill, “Family of Brit ISIS poster girl say ‘jihadi brides better in prison than dead,’” Mirror (London), February 16, 2019, accessed June 13, 2019, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/family-brit-isis-poster-girl-14009711.

Mahmood was raised in an affluent neighborhood in Glasgow and attended a private school.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/. According to her family, she read the Harry Potter series and listened to the British band Coldplay.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/. At the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, however, Mahmood grew more religious and stopped listening to music, according to her parents. Mahmood dropped out of Glasgow Caledonian University,“PM's Extremism Taskforce: tackling extremism in universities and colleges top of the agenda,” U.K. Home Office, September 17, 2015, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pms-extremism-taskforce-tackling-extremism-in-universities-and-colleges-top-of-the-agenda. and left home in November 2013. A few days after her departure, Mahmood called her family from Turkey and told them she was about to cross into Syria. The family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, referred to Mahmood as a “bedroom radical” who had “the best education money could buy,” but was radicalized online.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/. During a September 5, 2015, interview with CNN, Mahmood’s parents pleaded for their daughter to return home.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/.

Mahmood was radicalized online by British citizen Adeel Ulhaq, according to Mahmood’s parents. Ulhaq was imprisoned in February 2016 for facilitating the travel of a British teenage boy to ISIS-controlled territory.Steven Morris, “Three men found guilty of helping teenage jihadi travel from UK to Syria,” Guardian (London), February 10, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/10/kristen-brekke-adeel-ulhaq-forhad-rahman-guilty-aseel-muthana-syria-isis. The Mahmoods described their daughter as a “model child” swayed by Ulhaq’s promises of marriage. Aqsa Mahmood and Ulhaq met with their families at an English mosque in 2013 and told them of their plans to marry. It was the first time the two had met in person.Gavin Madley, “Heartbroken and hopeless: Parents of Scottish jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood tell of their devastation at losing her to ISIS brainwashing,” Daily Mail (London), February 21, 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3457741/Heartbroken-hopeless-Parents-Scottish-jihadi-bride-Aqsa-Mahmood-tell-devastation-losing-ISIS-brainwashing.html. During his trial, Ulhaq reportedly said he had intended to go marry Mahmood, but that she had left for Syria before they could complete their nuptials.Gavin Madley, “Heartbroken and hopeless: Parents of Scottish jihadi bride Aqsa Mahmood tell of their devastation at losing her to ISIS brainwashing,” Daily Mail (London), February 21, 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3457741/Heartbroken-hopeless-Parents-Scottish-jihadi-bride-Aqsa-Mahmood-tell-devastation-losing-ISIS-brainwashing.html.

Mahmood has used social media to promote life under ISIS. On Twitter, Mahmood has called for terror attacks against her homeland and for British Muslims to join ISIS.Lizzie Dearden, “The Glasgow teenager who dropped out of university to marry an ISIS fighter in Syria,” Independent (London), September 2, 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/the-glasgow-teenager-who-dropped-out-of-university-to-marry-an-isis-fighter-in-syria-9706610.html. In January 2013, before she left Scotland, Mahmood started a Tumblr account on which she posted quotes by prominent jihadists such as Anwar al-Awlaki, Australian preacher Musa Cerantonio, and Osama bin Laden.Aqsa Mahmood, Tumblr page, accessed September 10, 2015, http://fa-tubalilghuraba.tumblr.com/. After leaving home, Mahmood used her Tumblr blog to dispense advice on making hijrah (migration) to ISIS-held territory, as well as to share poetry and extremist religious quotes. Mahmood posted a poem to her Tumblr on April 9, 2014, in which she apologized to her mother for leaving. She wrote, “I know you’ve accepted that I’m never coming back.”Aqsa Mahmood, Tumblr post, April 9, 2014, http://fa-tubalilghuraba.tumblr.com/post/82208918735/ya-umee.

In September 2014, Mahmood’s father told journalists that he had stopped reading his daughter’s blog because it hurt him. At one point, Mahmood sent her father a message saying that she prayed every day to become a martyr.Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, “CNN exclusive: From Glasgow girl to ‘bedroom radical’ and ISIS bride,” CNN, September 5, 2014, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/05/world/europe/isis-bride-glasgow-scotland/. After Mahmood posted a poem online on June 28, 2015, praising recent attacks in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait, her family issued a media statement dissuading young people from joining ISIS. The statement read: “There is no honour, no glory, no god at work in the cowardly massacre of holidaymakers, people at prayer in a Shia mosque or an innocent man at his place of work.” The family described Mahmood’s words as “twisted and evil,” and said she is no longer the daughter they raised.“Family of Aqsa Mahmood ‘sickened’ by Tunisia blog post,” BBC News, June 29, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-33316076; Aqsa Mahmood, Tumblr post, June 28, 2015, http://fa-tubalilghuraba.tumblr.com/post/122667412344/black-friday. In September 2015, the U.N. Security Council placed Mahmood under sanctions, subjecting her to a global asset freeze and travel ban to prevent further radicalization attempts.“Aqsa Mahmood,” U.N. Security Council, September 28, 2015, https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/aqsa-mahmood.

The Mirror reported that Mahmood was believed to have been killed in the fall of ISIS’s so-called caliphate in February 2019.Brendan Mcginty, Dan Warburton, and Patrick Hill, “Family of Brit ISIS poster girl say ‘jihadi brides better in prison than dead,’” Mirror (London), February 16, 2019, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/family-brit-isis-poster-girl-14009711.

 

United Nations

September 2, 2015

The U.N. Security Council added Aqsa Mahmood to its Al-Qaida Sanctions List on September 28, 2015.“Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee Adds Names of Four Individuals to Its Sanctions List,” United Nations, September 28, 2015, http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12059.doc.htm.

United States

September 29, 2015

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Aqsa Mahmood as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.“Treasury Sanctions Major Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Leaders, Financial Figures, Facilitators, and Supporters,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 29, 2015, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0188.aspx.

Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

God forbid, if a time comes when we have no choice but to watch our citizens breathe their final breaths, and when there are no ventilators… we will make six million Israeli settlers unable to breathe.

Yahya Sinwar, Leader of Hamas in Gaza Apr. 2, 2020
View Archive

CEP on Twitter