A Mother's Path To Understanding Her Slain Son's Fight For ISIS

A Mother's Path To Understanding Her Slain Son's Fight For ISIS

When Karolina Dam's teenage son Lukas Dam went missing from their home in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the spring of 2014, she immediately knew something was terribly wrong.

Dam spent days in anguish without news of her son. Finally, Lukas called her from a number in Turkey and said he was helping "his brothers and sisters with aid in camps."

But Lukas gave few details, and it wasn't until seven months later that Dam learned her 18-year-old son had joined the Islamic State group and had been killed fighting for the extremist militants in Syria.

Dam is unsure when exactly her son converted to Islam, but she first found out Lukas was a practicing Muslim when he was fasting for Ramadan and refused food during the day, Dam told HuffPost Live host Josh Zepps in an interview on Friday.

Dam explained that Lukas, who suffered from Asperger's syndrome and ADD, adhered to a strict interpretation of the Qur'an. "He was an extreme Muslim because he was autistic," Dam said. "He needed the book, he needed a straightforward path to be on the right path because he needed structure."

When Lukas suddenly ran away from home in May 2014, Dam knew that something bad had happened, but she couldn't get a hold of him.

When Lukas finally called from Turkey, Dam desperately tried to find out what he was up to in the Middle East. Each time they spoke, all he said was that he was helping with aid in camps, which she later learned he did do for some months.

"[For] seven months, I didn’t know what he was doing. He is autistic -- was autistic -- so any information from him I had to pull out of him," Dam told HuffPostLive. "Every once in a while, I said, 'You need to tell me stuff. You need to tell me that you’ve been peeling 358 potatoes or you’ve been packing clothes or you need to tell me stuff. You’re gone from here, you ran off. I need to know, as a mother, what you are doing.'"

Late last year, Dam learned through a series of tip-offs that her son had been wounded. She suspected the worst. She turned to social media and eventually saw a thread that claimed her son had been martyred for the Islamic State group. According to The Guardian, Lukas was killed by a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Kobani, a town on the Syria-Turkey border.

Dam said she knew nothing about her son's alleged involvement with the terrorist organization at the time. "I didn't even know what the word 'radicalization' was before I found out my son was dead," Dam recently told The Guardian.

Since her son's death, Dam has found consolation with “Mothers for Life,” a network of mothers from various European countries whose children have joined jihadi groups. Dam told HuffPost Live that the group's members are trying to raise awareness, stand in solidarity with one another and put pressure on governments to provide proper de-radicalization programs for those who have returned instead of just imprisoning them.

"Of course we need to get [our children] back, but we just can’t just chuck them in jail, lock the door and that’s it," Dam said. "We need to realize these kids have been brainwashed. Their brain has changed. They’re sick. They need help. We need to put them in the right programs. We need to do whatever we can to help them when they get out of jail."

"We are the Mothers For Life and we do what mothers do: we look out for the children, we love them, dead or alive, and we’re not going away," she said.

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