Ariel Bradley

Ariel Bradley is an American convert to Islam who married a Swedish Muslim man she met online. They have lived in Syria with their two children since 2014. Bradley’s husband, Yasin Mohamad, is a jihadist fighter with ISIS.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley grew up in Hixson, a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mohammad Abdulazeez—the gunman who killed four Marines in an attack on two military bases in Chattanooga in July 2015—was also from Hixson.Lucas L. Johnson and Kathleen Foody, “4 Marines and gunman die in attack on 2 military sites,” Associated Press, July 17, 2015, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/76b0bb1e8dda406d89972592b1c3832e/mayor-police-pursuing-active-shooter-chattanooga-tenn;
Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley is the third of five children. She told her friends that her family was so impoverished she would forget what milk tasted like. Bradley’s father, Aljon, worked at the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Bradley’s mother, Dianne, homeschooled Ariel with a focus on the doctrine of the Pentecostal Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. Bradley had a strained relationship with her mother and her religion. Dianne Bradley did not focus as much on giving her daughter a secular education. Bradley studied for her GED, but did not take the test because she could not afford the prep classes, according to friends. She ran away from home when she was 15 or 16 years old, and spent the next several years rebelling against her parents by adopting several different religions.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

According to Bradley’s friends, she changed her identity based on the man with whom she was involved, and defined herself by her relationships. She was always looking for an identity “to cling to,” they said. Bradley became an atheist and a socialist before converting to Islam, and her friends believe she was brainwashed by ISIS.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley held several part-time jobs in Chattanooga. In 2010, she began work at University Deli & Pizza in Chattanooga. The Palestinian owner from Jerusalem served several Arabic dishes, which made the restaurant popular with international students at the University of Tennessee. While working there Bradley met an Arab engineering student who interested her in Islam.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

According to the student and Bradley’s friends, the student’s rejection of a romantic relationship with Bradley spurred her to stop drinking alcohol and begin researching Islam. Bradley converted in the spring of 2011. According to Bradley’s Muslim friends, she took a more orthodox approach to Islam after her conversion. She moved out of the house she shared with Muslim friends because they were not religious enough and moved in with her older sister.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley joined the Islamic dating website Half Our Deen. In August 2011, she matched with Yasin Mohamad in Sweden. Mohamad told Bradley he was an Iraqi refugee. They were engaged within a few months. Mohamad then convinced Bradley to cut off all relationships with unrelated men. They were married in Sweden in December 2011, days after their first meeting.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley soon returned to Chattanooga while Swedish authorities processed her citizenship application. At her husband’s request, Bradley began purging her Facebook friends of all men. Bradley returned to Chattanooga in late 2012 for prenatal care and her daughter was born in Tennessee that December. They returned to Sweden soon after.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

It is unknown when exactly Bradley and her family traveled to Syria. Bradley told her mother in early 2015 that she and her husband were going on a “mission trip” to the Middle East to help his family. In April 2015, Bradley wrote on Twitter that they had been in Syria for over a year and in al-Bab for the past eight months. Her son was born in Syria in 2014.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

Bradley has actively posted on Twitter while in Syria, using variations of the names “Umm Aminah” and “Emarah bint Aljon.” In February 2015, she tweeted a request for prayers because of the difficulty of being a non-Arabic speaker, mother, and “wife of a mujahid” in Syria. That July, she used Twitter to praise an attack on two military bases in Chattanooga that left four Marines dead.Ellie Hall, “Whatever Happened to Ariel?,” BuzzFeed News, July 20, 2015, http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/woman-journey-from-chattanooga-to-isis#.bvZqmjPWm.

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