This January, journalist and author Anna Erelle came out with a captivating novel recounting her tale of how she went undercover as a jihadist bride for the sake of journalism, for the sake of the story and for her own curiosity and interest in the Middle East.
In an excerpt from the novel featured in Vogue, Erelle describes how she, under the avatar Mélodie, attracted an ISIS fighter named Abu Bilel to propose and invite her to Syria.
“Listen, Mélodie. Among other things, it’s my job to recruit people, and I’m really good at my job. You can trust me. You’ll be really well treated here. You’ll be important. And if you agree to marry me, I’ll treat you like a queen.”
The excerpt is chilling. You can see how persuasive a fighter like Bilel could be to a vulnerable young adult with no direction, someone searching for a purpose, like Erelle’s avatar claimed to be.
“You can see how a girl like Melodie would be mesmerized,” said Erelle. “She feels like a nobody and all of a sudden here is this man of 38, nearly twice her age, who has had all these incredible adventures, who is kind to her and telling her he loves her and wanting to talk to her 1,000 times a day.”
The Skype call with Bilel as described in the excerpt is only the beginning of Erelle’s epic journey.
“Abu Bilel would continue to impact my life for months, convincing me to set out on a journey to Syria before plans went terribly wrong in Amsterdam, and later tracking me down so that I would have to live in hiding.”
“The article was written under an assumed name. “Erelle” is her second pseudonym. Once the piece was published and the full extent of Melodie’s betrayal made apparent, Erelle became a target. She has had to change her phone number several times and has moved. Alarmingly, shortly after Melodie broke contact, Bilel called her from a French number. She has had numerous death threats to Melodie’s Skype account. She has written a book she cannot admit to, and since the Charlie Hebdo massacre on Jan. 7, she has had police protection.”
When asked if she would do it all over again, Erelle said “for sure.” We applaud this young woman’s dedication to the story and can’t wait to get our hands on a copy of her book.