Her husband had been wanting to go there; he’d been talking about it for weeks, but she had vehemently objected. The country had become one of the most dangerous places on earth, with rebel groups, terrorists, and warlords all fighting with the ruthless government. Scrawled in broken English, it read, “Welcome in Syria.” s a girl growing up in a suburban town north of London, Tania Joya liked the usual things—riding her bike, hanging posters of fluffy animals on her walls, and dancing around her room to house and garage music—but she felt unwanted, both at home and in her community.
She confronted her husband, who confirmed her suspicions. Born in 1983, she had been given the name Joya Choudhury, but her family, friends, and teachers called her Tania, a name her mom preferred.
She began reading the Quran closely, taking it to heart.“I thought I had been living a lie, being ignorant of Islam,” she said.“If I snuck out with bare arms, Bengali men would say, ‘Don’t you have any shame? Tania never felt close to her father; she described him as verbally abusive. In primary school, she had a mix of middle-class and working-class friends but faced slurs from bullies, who called her “darkie” and “Paki.” She refused to back down, talking right back to them.When Tania was around seven years old, her father was laid off and started working odd jobs, but he couldn’t hold on to any of them, sending the family into debt. And she had to have surgery on a bone that was growing oddly, jutting out of her leg.She was the fourth daughter of her Bangladeshi-born parents.
“The fourth unwanted daughter,” she said, citing the deeply rooted cultural belief that boys are more worthy than girls.” Sometimes, they’d use the roof of the family’s car as a toilet.“I remember being five years old and wanting to run away,” she said.She had grown up reading the Quran, per her parents’ wishes, but had not taken religion very seriously. “I thought I better start praying because God must hate me.” When her family moved from the town of Harrow to a more affordable place in Barking, a suburb east of London, Tania transferred to a high school there and made a new set of friends.They were devout Muslim girls, and they pressured her to become more devout herself.Her husband, a convert to Islam, was a Texan, from Plano.