Since 15-year-old “Joana” was a little girl, her mom says she’s always been interested in religion.
In the video above, the girl who uses “Joana” as an alias to mask her true identity explains she was left unfulfilled after growing up as a Catholic, so she recently converted to Islam.
She tells CNN:
“I had a lot of Muslim friends, I read the Quran — when I read one page I wanted to read another and another; this religion seemed to coincide with what I wanted.”
However, her newfound passion for Islam became an obsession, one she says she “can’t live without.”
It all began when she started receiving messages from ISIS recruiters online, and before long, Joana started to distance herself from her real-life family:
Image Credit: Screenshot/CNN
“I received loads of messages from them, I was constantly in touch with them. They made sense of my life, made me think I had an important role on Earth. I really felt like I was loved, even more than by my own family.”
The teen claims she was an easy target and recruiters knew this — they also knew that by telling Joana her family would soon reject her and stop loving her, she would lean on her ‘brothers and sisters in Islam’ even more.
Her mother considered Joana’s interest in Islam a rebellious phase, but that all changed when her daughter called her an “infidel.”
Her mother called a national helpline immediately after:
“What should I have done? I smoke, so I thought maybe I shouldn’t have smoked? Maybe I wasn’t religious enough? I felt my daughter didn’t love me anymore, that she was rejecting me.”
Today, Joana is part of a counseling program to help radicalized Muslims recover from their experiences with extremism.
The Parisian teen has since stayed off social media, but says she’s nervous to fall into ISIS’s trap once again if ever feeling lonely. Now, she’s warning others about it in an effort to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other vulnerable young people.