Why would a “normal” American teen convert to Islam and then try to join a terrorist organization, and how do terrorists seduce women over the Internet and lure them into traveling thousands of miles to become their wives? These are the questions that internationally respected counter-terrorism expert and Georgetown University Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Security Studies asks in her book Bride of ISIS.
Based upon a composite of actual cases and inspired by the true story of Shannon Conley, an American teen from Denver, Colorado who converted to Islam, took the niqab, and who ultimately ended up in the clutches of ISIS, Bride of ISIS follows Sophie Lindsay—another “girl next-door” as she is seduced over the Internet.
Shannon Conley was arrested in 2014 while trying to board a flight to Turkey with the alleged goal of traveling to Syria to join and marry an ISIS extremist she had met online. Conley believed her Internet mentors that “defensive jihad” was not only permissible, but her duty. She told FBI agents that she believed U.S. military bases; government facilities and personnel; public officials and law enforcement were all legitimate terrorist targets. Trained as a nurse’s aide and in firearms, Conley hoped to either fight jihad in Syria and Iraq, or if prevented from entering a combat role, to assist jihadi fighters. Lured by a romance that she carried out via Skype with an ISIS fighter, Conley was on the road to destruction—until her father turned her in to the FBI.
Sophie Lindsay follows a similar path to Shannon Conley’s but in this book we get an inside look on how she enters the terrorist trajectory and moves steadily toward carrying out a terrorist act. Will FBI agent, Cathy Chambers and Homeland Security analyst, Ken Follett sort through all the “wannabe” ISIS and al Qaeda extremists on the Internet to discover who is the true terrorist? And will they be able to stop Sophie in time to save her and the lives of countless others?
Could you be living next door to a future bride of ISIS?
Praise for Bride of ISIS
“Fascinating and brilliantly written, Anne Speckhard’s fictionalized, true-life tale is as compelling as it is shocking.” —U.S. Ambassador Alberto Fernandez (Ret.), Former Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), U.S. State Department, Vice President Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
“As the US government insists on keeping real facts classified on terrorism cases, we must turn to fiction to try to peek into the minds of the new crop of teenager terrorists. Speckhard’s thinly fictionalized tale of a real case peels back some layers of this chilling darkness.” —Marc Sageman, Former CIA case officer and author of Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad
“I have had the honor to know and work with Anne Speckhard over many years, and find her work and books prolific and of great use to anyone that wants to understand terrorism by khawarej (zealots hiding behind religion) and their manipulation of women.” –Major General HRH Princess Aisha Bint Al Hussein of Jordan
“Some of the most illuminating discussions of terrorism have been works of fiction by eminent authors like Albert Camus, The Just Assassins; Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Possessed; etc. works I used in the terrorism courses I taught in late 1960s before the subject interested academics. Anne Speckhard, a psychologist, who has spent considerable time interviewing terrorists, has decided to use her talent and experience to produce a novel on how one becomes a terrorist today. My students always found the great fictional works generated more valuable and exciting discussions than the academic works assigned, and Bride of ISIS will have the same effect.” –David C. Rapoport, Founding and Chief Editor of Terrorism and Political Violence, Author of Four Waves of Modern Terror
“People often ask me the question: what brings people to join violent groups like ISIS? If you really want to know, there is only one advice: read Anne Speckhard. She did the most obvious thing that very few others seem to have the courage for. She spoke to them. Those who joined. Re-humanizing what so many others have demonized. It is the only way to understand motives. It is also the only way to begin to find the road to the solution. Anne Speckhard has (once more) written a book that all those who develop counter terrorism policies and approaches should read.” —Peter Knoope, Former Director of the International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague
“Smartly written, intriguing, eminently readable and like all of Speckhard’s work, Bride of ISIS, vibrates the pulse of history.” —Halli Casser-Jayne, host of The Halli Casser-Jayne Show Podcast
“Drawing on her more than four hundred interviews with terrorists and their associates, Anne Speckhard skillfully leads us into the inner world of the traumatized youth who have been adroitly manipulated to join the virtual community of hatred. The novelization of politics, psychology, and culture is a splendid route to understanding that persuasively conveys the passage from lost adolescent to the power of using her own body as a weapon. The implications as ISIS draws successfully on Western youth to magnify their ranks are quite frightening.” —Jerrold M. Post, M.D., Director of the Political Psychology Program, The George Washington University and author of The Mind of the Terrorist
“Anne Speckhard’s Bride of ISIS should be mandatory reading for people working in counter terrorism operations and national security policy. Fictional, but grounded in cases and trends that governments, communities and academics around the world are trying to get a handle on.” —Laurence Brooks, Director General (ret) Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
“Dr. Anne Speckhard is a true expert in what makes terrorists tick, the men, and especially the women. This book is the first of its kind to discuss the shocking cases of young women lured by ISIS and the deep psychological undercurrents that hypnotize young girls to traverse borders thousands of miles away in search of romance amidst a raging battle of identity, sense of meaning and belonging. This book will become required reading in various genres.” —Mubin Shaikh, Islamic Radicalization and Counter-terrorism Expert, coauthor of Undercover Jihadi: Inside the Toronto 18
“From an esteemed author who has interviewed over four hundred terrorists and their associates, Bride of ISIS shows us how a young American girl could be seduced into extremist thinking and give up everything in search of what she falsely believes will be meaning, adventure, romance and a new identity inside a terrorist group. A spellbinding and captivating read!” —Rita Cosby, Emmy-Winning TV/Radio Host and Best Selling Author of Quiet Hero: Secrets From My Father’s Past
“In Bride of ISIS Anne Speckhard draws on her unrivaled research experience to produce a compelling story that sheds important light on a real and urgent problem. The case of Sophie Lindsay may be fictional but it is based on a present reality that will be better understood by reading this riveting book.” —Robert Lambert, Ph.D., Lecturer, Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, UK
“An amazing piece of fiction based on the real world! A must read to understand and fight the contemporary wave of terrorism and extremism! Anne Speckhard’s work is informed by years of interviews with terrorists, supporters and their families!” —Rohan Gunaratna, Professor Security Studies, Head, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore, Author, Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror Columbia University Press
“Bride of ISIS is every parent’s worst nightmare and too many kids’ fantasies come true. Anne Speckhard is uniquely qualified to tell this painful story of a disenfranchised teen who becomes obsessed with radical Islamic ideas. Dr. Speckhard’s in-depth research into the psychology of terrorists gives this book an authenticity that makes it a valuable read for anyone interested in the process that can transform an all American teenager into a would-be terrorist.” —Amanda Ohlke, Adult Education Director, International Spy Museum
“A fascinating look at the trajectory from trauma to radicalization from the viewpoint of a young American woman. Only Anne Speckhard could tell this tale, drawing upon her unique, extensive experience and hundreds of interviews delving into both trauma and terrorism. A complete page-turner, you may never sleep well again…” —Laurie Fenstermacher, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory
“After her last exciting nonfiction book, Undercover Jihadi, in which Anne Speckhard traces the emotional stages of a jihadi who eventually does a full turnaround and becomes an informer – Bride of ISIS, in her usual vibrant style, tells the story of a young woman who becomes enmeshed in the same web of lies and deception about jihad, revealing a stark truth—that terrorists twist the interpretation of the Koran to persuade the weak and vulnerable to join their cause. Another of her books that you won’t be able to put down.” —Joe Charlaff, Middle East Correspondent for Homeland Security Today
“Sometimes, the most nuanced understandings of critical issues are found in works of fiction. Bride of ISIS gives us a deeply insightful—and important—look into the personal transformation process of a fiction-based-on-fact individual who is radicalized emotionally as much as intellectually, and chooses to join the murderous jihadist movement, ISIS. Anne Speckhard has a uniquely well-informed, carefully researched knowledge of terrorism and terrorists at the individual psychological and emotional level, and she has drawn on this knowledge to provide a powerful and valuable look at one individual on this journey into violence.” —Dr. Alistair D. Edgar, Executive Director, Academic Council on the UN System, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University
“Anne Speckhard is one of the leading experts on the intersection between psychology and terrorism studies. In Bride of ISIS, she masterfully combines the two disciplines to take the reader into the mind of a suburban Denver teenager who sought to join the world’s most violent terrorist organization.” —Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, Director, Program on Extremism, George Washington University
“Dr. Anne Speckhard brings an extraordinary understanding of human and terrorist psychology to her latest novel, a page-turner about the radicalization of the “girl next door”. Speckhard draws on extensive research over many years, including more than four hundred interviews with terrorists and their associates. The result is a captivating and cautionary tale of a tragic progression that is becoming all too common in the real world.” —Carol Rollie Flynn, Former CIA Senior Executive
“Female terrorists are growing in number and increasing in sophistication, and yet they rarely make the headlines. In this much-needed book, Anne Speckhard provides valuable insight and intelligence into the radicalization of a disenfranchised young woman and tackles the subject with the same skill and sensitivity shown in her earlier work, Undercover Jihadi. The novelization route strikes right at the reader’s heart and enhances understanding of the practical and psychological process of radicalization.” —Kylie Bull, Managing Editor, Homeland Security Today