An American woman nicknamed the “Empress of Isis” has been sentenced to 20 years in prison in the US, after her own children urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
Allison Fluke-Ekren, 42, from Kansas, admitted to enlisting and training over 100 women and girls as young as 10 as leader of Islamic State’s all-female Khatiba Nusaybah, teaching them how to use automatic weapons and detonate grenades and suicide belts.
One of Fluke-Ekren's own daughters was among those who said she received such training.
Leyla Ekren, now 20, told the court she “felt degraded my entire life.” Her mother had married her off to a “random Isis fighter as a sex slave,” she said, abandoning her with “my rapist”.
Fluke-Ekren had pleaded guilty before a court in Virginia to expressing interest in carrying out terrorist attacks in the US in support of the terrorist group on six separate occasions between 2014 and 2017.
She denied abusing her daughter or forcing her to marry, which was not one of the charges, saying Leyla acted of her own free will despite being just 13.
"She was a few weeks away from 14," Fluke-Ekren said. "It was her own decision. I never forced her."
A unique story among terror cases
The Fluke-Ekren case is one of the most horrific IS trials to be heard in a Western court.
Her status as a US-born woman who rose to leadership status in the Islamic State makes her story unique among terror cases.
She had a trouble-free childhood, growing up on an 80-acre farm and attending an elite private school. After leaving her first husband, Fluke-Ekren attended the University of Kansas, where she married a fellow student named Volkan Ekren and converted from Christianity to Islam.
They had five children together and adopted another after the child's parents were killed as suicide bombers in Syria.
In 2008, the family moved to Egypt and in 2011 to Libya where, US Attorney Raj Parekh said, “Fluke-Ekren's dogged pursuit to obtain positions of power and influence to train young women in extremist ideology and violence began.”
Disillusioned with Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which apparently was not violent enough, she forced her family to move to Syria in early 2013.
After Fluke-Ekren's husband - who became leader of an IS sniper unit - was killed in 2015 she forced their 13-year-old daughter to marry a jihadist, according to Mr Parekh.
“Do we blame women learning to defend themselves?” she at one point asked the court.
Radicalisation was 'off the charts'
Even within the Islamic State, people who knew Fluke-Ekren described her radicalisation as “off the charts” and other terrorist groups refused her plans to form a female battalion until she finally found a taker in the Islamic State.
Fluke Ekren “in effect became the empress of Isis,” said Mr Parekh at sentencing. “She brainwashed young girls and trained them to kill,” he said. “Fluke-Ekren's actions “added a new dimension to the darkest side of humanity”.
In total she had five husbands and 12 children, with many of the spouses being killed fighting.
During a victim impact statement at the hearing, her children claimed to have been physically and sexually abused by their mother.
“My mother is a monster without love for her children, without an excuse for her actions,” said her son. “She has the blood, pain, and suffering of all of her children on her hands.”
Fluke-Ekren pleaded guilty in June, but asked for just a two-year sentence so she could raise her younger children, who are now in care.
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