ISIS suspect answers questions from the Express & Star
It arrived to the Express & Star letters' editor like hundreds of emails everyday.
But this was not a normal observation of life in the Black Country and Staffordshire, it was contact from a suspected ISIS terrorist who British authorities believe is operating in Syria.
Sajid Aslam is wanted by MI5 and West Midlands Police's Counter Terrorism Unit for joining forces with terrorists under the ISIS flag.
Earlier this year his wife, Lorna Moore, and three close friends were convicted at the Old Bailey of terrorist activities.
His letter to the editor claims that he is not in Syria, but living and working as a teacher in Turkey.
The email was immediately passed to police in Birmingham.
We then responded to Mr Aslam, asking him for proof over his claim to be living in Turkey and what followed was a revealing email response outlining his plans to come home to face the UK authorities, his anguish at missing his wife and children and even his favourite fish and chip shops in Walsall.
Our questions and edited version of Sajid Aslam's answers
Q. If you are innocent, why do you not come back to Britain?
A. Let me ask you, if you were me, would you?
If the British authorities are able to charge and convict a white British woman (Lorna Moore) with no criminal record, with no history of Islamic extremism since becoming a Muslim, a university educated degree holder with a professional career, with three young children, sentencing her to three years in prison despite comprehensively failing to prove her guilt of committing or intending to commit any crime, despite the complete and total lack of evidence to prove her guilt of any crime or the intention to commit any crime – then would any sane, rational, and intelligent person put themselves at the mercy of the very same authorities, to suffer even worse injustices, to be falsely accused of even worse crimes, and to be imprisoned for far, far longer?
ISIS is a brutal organisation, with no morals, ethics, or humanity, willing to do anything to achieve their objectives.
However, in their effort to fight ISIS sympathisers, supporters, and members, the British authorities have also abandoned their morals, ethics, and humanity, and are willing to do anything to achieve their objectives of convicting and incarcerating as many British Muslims for 'terrorism' offences as possible – regardless of whether they can prove it or not, and regardless of whether they are actually guilty or not.
Q. Can you tell us more about your current situation? What do you teach? What is your life like? Do you miss Walsall? Do you have contact with anyone in the area?
A. Apart from the heartache and anguish of living without my wife and children, my life in Turkey is actually very similar to the life I lived in Walsall.
I am still a secondary school teacher (I previously taught younger children but my current position is for 11-16 year olds only), I am still teaching English Language, I still work from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm – just as I did in the UK.
What is my life like? I wouldn't call it a life. It's an old cliché that you only realise what you have when it's gone, but it really is very true. I never appreciated how wonderful, beautiful, and amazing my wife and children are until I lost them, and without them I feel completely empty, like my heart and soul have been ripped out, and the life, joy, and happiness has been torn away from my existence.
I don't ever feel happy as such anymore – just varying degrees of depression and sadness, fluctuating between melancholy at best to suicidal at worst.
The only satisfaction I have in my 'life' is teaching my students, and helping them learn the English language which I hope will open up opportunities for them all over the world which they could never have imagined prior to the war.
This is why I choose to remain in Turkey, as living in constant fear and sadness while educating and enlightening children is preferred to me over living in constant fear and sadness in a British prison.
I suppose the reason why I spend a lot more time playing video games and watching movies than I ever have done before is because they allow me to escape from the miserable reality of my 'life' and into fantasy worlds where I can temporarily forget about the pain, sadness, and emptiness of what my 'life' has become.
Another old cliché is 'home is where the heart is', but again, it really is very true.
Having been born and raised in Walsall, and having returned there after finishing university, I never thought it would be possible for me to live elsewhere and then miss Walsall – but I do miss it terribly!
Walsall is a small, uninteresting, ageing town, where nothing exciting ever happens, but even after two years away I still feel very homesick and I long to return to my inane little Walsall very much.
Walsall is known for its many chip shops – and I often long for a fish and chips! Turkish food is not to my liking and I don't think it ever will be!
I don't have any contact with anyone in Walsall or even anyone in the UK, and I haven't for a very long time. My family and friends are all Muslims, and they are all terrified of being arrested and convicted of one 'terrorism' offence or another just for exchanging emails or phone calls with me.
Even my sister who lives in Spain refuses to respond to my contact, as she fears she will be extradited to the UK at the request of the British authorities for doing so.
Q. Have you ever been to Syria? Have you ever fought for or lived in the so-called Islamic State?
A. I have entered Syria on two occasions – but only to help weak/injured/elderly Syrians fleeing the war successfully leave Syria and enter Turkey, and on both occasions I never went any further than a few kilometres from the Turkish border.
I have never fought for or lived in the so-called Islamic State, I would never ever want to, and I am sure it is only a matter of time before ISIS are defeated and consigned to history.
Q. If your wife is innocent, why did she make arrangements to rent out the family home in Glebe Street and leave with flights booked to Palma Mallorca? The authorities say she intended to fly from here to Turkey to then pass into Syria.
A. My wife had flights booked to Palma Mallorca to visit my younger sister named Miss Salma Aslam who lives and works there, who is also a school teacher. I myself travelled to Palma Mallorca to visit her there a few years ago – just check my travel records.
My sister used to live in Kenya, and my wife and children travelled to visit her there a few years ago too, just check their travel records.
The fact that my sister lives and works in Palma Mallorca and my wife explaining her reason for booking return flights there was to visit her is something that was not revealed by the police nor was it reported in any of the press coverage about her case – in order to misleadingly paint the picture that the outbound flight to Palma was the first stage in travelling to the so-called 'Islamic State', but nothing could be further from the truth, which is that it was nothing more than an intended innocent holiday to visit her sister-in-law, exactly as she had done in the past.
Q. Why did you leave to go to Turkey? During the court proceedings it was stated you left unexpectedly while your wife and children were on holiday – why did you do that?
A. I left for Turkey intending to help the victims of the war in Syria in any way I could.
Two days prior to leaving I received a phone call from Jacob Petty who informed me that he and Isaiah Siadatan had successfully joined an aid agency near the Turkey/Syria border and were working as volunteers aiding refugees from the war. They insisted that I join them as soon as possible (which is why I left suddenly and unexpectedly) and I was happy to do so, feeling that as a Muslim my religion compelled me to, and that as a human being my humanity also compelled me to.
I also took the opportunity to leave whilst my wife was away so as not to give her the chance to talk me out of travelling to a potentially dangerous region, albeit for a good cause, rather than waiting for her to return from holiday to discuss the matter.
Q. Ayman Shaukat and Alex Nash were convicted of terrorism offences alongside your wife – did you know or suspect they were sympathetic to ISIS or Islamic extremism?
A. I did not know Ayman Shaukat well at all.
When leaving to come to Turkey Ayman did give me a lift to London Stansted Airport, but only after I asked another friend to take me first.
I do not believe for one second that Alex Nash attempted to join ISIS out of a desire to fight for them, or out of a desire to terrorise, hurt, or kill people – Alex is simply not that kind of person.
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