KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A Tajik woman accused of joining the "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and her two children have been extradited to Tajikistan, where she faces trial, Sughd Province Assistant Prosecutor for Especially Serious Cases Tavakkal Faizullozoda told Caravanserai.
Shakhlo Nosirova was arrested while trying to cross the Azerbaijan-Turkey border. She was extradited from Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, to Khujand, according to Faizullozoda.
Tajik law enforcement sent her children to live with their grandmother in Istaravshan, Nosirova's hometown about 60km from Khujand.
"Shakhlo, 25, is expected to stand before the court and give an account of what induced her to join IS in Syria," said Faizullozoda.
Nosirova faces 12 to 20 years in prison if convicted of "illegally participating in armed conflicts on the territory of other states", according to Faizullozoda.
Nosirova "is being held in a State National Security Committee [GKNB] jail, and in a few days, her case will go to court", said Faizullozoda.
Answering her brother's call
Caravanserai got in touch with Nosirova's uncle, Yunuskhon Abbosov of Istaravshan, who spoke about the incident.
Nosirova previously lived with her husband and two children in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Maruf Abbosov, her brother, graduated from a university in the same city, where he married a Russian woman and intended to settle down.
"My nephew not only graduated; he entered graduate school," said Yunuskhon Abbosov.
Unexpectedly, Maruf Abbosov took his wife and children to Syria in 2013, telling his relatives and other Tajiks that he wanted to start a business there.
Once in Syria, he told his relatives by phone that he had opened a car repair garage.
In 2016, he called Nosirova and encouraged her to join him. She did so with her two children without telling her husband, according to the Sughd Province Prosecutor's Office. She reportedly phoned her husband only after reaching Turkey, a common way station between Russia and Syria, and told him, "If you want to be with me and the children, come join my brother." Her husband did not join them.
Nosirova's account of her time in the Middle East has changed over time.
"Whether she reached her brother and sister-in-law is unknown," Faizullozoda said. "After changing her initial testimony, Shakhlo maintains that she did not cross into Syria. During her first interrogation, she claimed she'd roamed throughout Syria."
The family suffers
About two months ago, Nosirova and Maruf Abbosov's parents heard that their son had been killed in combat in Syria and their daughter arrested in Azerbaijan. The news was more than the siblings' father could bear. He died of a heart attack, said the dead man's brother, Yunuskhon Abbosov.
"My brother Yusufkhon was a respected individual in Bogot Jamoat," said Yunuskhon Abbosov. "We prayed but never went to a mosque."
Yusufkhon Abbosov's widow, Mavludakhon, has been in tears every day, the siblings' aunt Zakhrokhon told Caravanserai by phone.
"If her daughter receives a long sentence, I don't know if she will be able to endure this blow," Zakhrokhon told Caravanserai.
IS destroys lives
The story of Nosirova and her brother is typical for many Tajik families whose children joined IS in Syria and Iraq. More often than not, such stories end in tragedy.
When IS was gaining territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014, entire groups from several villages in Sughd Province were recruited to fight alongside the terrorists.
Some excited Tajik militants took their wives and children with them. At the beginning of August 2016, according to the government's Committee for Women's and Family Affairs, the government knew of 200 Tajik families in Syria and Iraq. They included 73 families from Sughd Province alone and another 43 families from Khatlon Province.
Now, with IS shattered on battlefields in Syria and Iraq, widows and children who outlived their militant husbands face a fate they did not expect.
"Many Tajik women ... and children who have lost husbands, brothers and fathers have been forced to roam refugee camps [in Syria and Iraq]," Zarif Alizoda, Tajik human rights ombudsman, told Caravanserai September 15.
"Our task today consists of ... identifying the locations of Tajik citizens and trying to bring them back to their homeland," he said.