Produced in collaboration between BBC Sounds and CBC Podcasts, the compelling seven-part podcast series “Bloodlines” casts a spotlight on Dure Ahmed, the former spouse of El Shafee Elsheikh, a notorious fighter affiliated with IS. Her identity was unveiled yesterday in Canada, where she has been repatriated. Elsheikh and his associates in the IS cell earned the moniker “the Beatles” due to their distinct British accents. This militant group was responsible for high-profile abductions and brutalities against American, British, and Japanese journalists and humanitarian workers. Presently, Elsheikh is serving eight life sentences in a high-security American prison.
The narrative of “Bloodlines” commences with host and BBC Asian Network journalist Poonam Taneja delving into the remnants of the so-called Islamic State in pursuit of three-year-old Salmaan, the missing grandchild of a British citizen. In her quest for the young boy, Poonam encounters Dure Ahmed, a Canadian by birth, within a Syrian detention camp.
Ahmed willingly imparts details about the child’s last known whereabouts. She shared an amicable rapport with his mother, also a Canadian national. It was through this connection with Ahmed that Poonam received a lead regarding her true identity. Poonam reflects, “Meeting Ahmed paved the way for exclusive interviews with her, and ultimately, we confronted her about her husband’s identity and the significant role he played in the Caliphate.”
Ahmed, a 33-year-old mother of two, divulges, for the first time in this podcast series, the story of how she met and wed Elsheikh, her choice to relocate to live with him under the so-called Islamic State, and her existence in a Syrian detention camp. In an interview exclusively granted to Poonam, Ahmed recounts her journey as a young woman in love, asserting her ignorance of the atrocities unfolding around her. She maintains, “I wasn’t radicalised; I was simply a naive girl in love, unaware of the reality.” This is a statement that Poonam persistently scrutinises.
Throughout their interviews, Ahmed also offers glimpses into daily life under the rule of IS. She alleges that during this period, she was isolated and faced violence from Elsheikh while pregnant. Ahmed also maintains that she attempted to flee on numerous occasions, but without a support network, remaining was her sole option. “We couldn’t even draw the blinds. My husband was exceedingly private.” Ultimately, she sought sanctuary in a women’s guest house after her separation from Elsheikh.
Ahmed’s return to Canada led to legal proceedings this week. The Crown prosecutor contended, “Ahmed had become deeply entrenched in IS ideology, and it is likely that she was aware of her husband’s role within the group before departing Canada in 2014.” Her bail conditions, inclusive of GPS monitoring and a curfew, were assessed in a Brampton, Ontario court, with a verdict expected this Thursday on 19th October.
“Bloodlines” will be available weekly from 23rd October on BBC Sounds, CBC Listen, and wherever you access your podcasts.