A 19-YEAR-OLD woman arrested in Gandia (Valencia province) for attempting to join the ranks of DAESH in Syria has been sentenced to five years in jail, despite her protests that she was 'vulnerable, gullible and a bit silly' when she was drawn into the Jihad movement.
Raja El-Aasemy's detention following a dawn raid on her family flat shocked residents in the coastal town, which is home to a melting pot of nationalities and has a very low violent crime rate.
She lived with her elder brothers above the family butcher's, where local Spaniards often bought their joints of meat and said the family would throw in 'freebies', whilst elderly Spanish ladies brought in cakes they had baked.
The siblings worked 14-hour days, seven-day weeks and always served customers with a smile, and Raja was regarded as a reserved and quiet, but polite and helpful young girl who would never hesitate to carry elderly residents' shopping upstairs for them.
Her parents had moved back to Morocco a few years earlier, but Raja had been to primary and high school in Gandia – a town of around 77,000 inhabitants – and had always seemed 'very Spanish' and 'European', meaning it surprised her neighbours and customers when she started wearing a full burqa, even to serve them in the shop.
She was only just 18 when she was taken into custody after it was found that she had spread propaganda about the soi-disant 'Islamic State', known as ISIS or DAESH, attempting to justify their violent crusade and recruit others to the cause.
Her lawyer insisted she was 'just a little girl', emotionally, and very unworldly, and had not even been in contact with anyone who would have been able to get her into Syria – essential for future Jihad fighters, since it is 'not as easy as just turning up in Turkey and asking, which way is DAESH, please', the solicitor said.
But the prosecution said Raja had 'indoctrinated herself' and was not under anyone's influence, and had never denied that she was a terrorist supporter, nor appeared ignorant of DAESH's intentions.
She told the judge that she 'just wanted to go home', to be with her family and that she wanted 'to go to college'.
Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska – whose cousin Concepción spent a month hostage in Colombia three years ago with her now-husband Ángel – pointed out that Raja's parents had pleaded with her to give up her ideas about Syria and DAESH, to no avail.
Raja had been 'advertising' on social networks about how ISIS did not need financing, but needed Mujahadins, or 'pawns', and she had intended to go to the Middle Eastern country, marry a Mujahadin and start her own Jihad crusade.
Her original 16-year sentence has been cut to five years.
Raja is an example of the numerous Spanish Jihad sympathisers who, indoctrinated and brainwashed as gullible and directionless teenagers, have been caught in time before perpetrating fundamentalist violence.
In general, Spain's Jihad problem is considerably less severe than in other, northern European countries such as France, Belgium and the UK, with fewer than a quarter of the latter countries' ISIS supporters jailed and typically discovered very early in their crusade.
A prosecutor specialising in Jihad says Spain's dramatically-reduced incidence is because integration is much greater in the country – society's attitude to residents of foreign origin or of different cultures is very open and accepting, whether or not they choose to 'be like the Spanish' or continue living by their own cultural codes, and differences are either celebrated or not even noticed.