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Cryptocurrency and the crumbling caliphate: The good side and the ugly.

From inside the secrecy of her tent in a sprawling camp in northeast Syria, Sara, a European woman affiliated with Isis, furiously messages people across the world begging them to send her cash.  

“I just need 15,000 dollars to escape to Turkey, Idlib or wherever,” she writes on an encrypted app in  al-Hol, a squalid desert camp holding 65,000 people, including families who once lived in the caliphate.  

“I already have $2,000,” she adds with a flick of desperation. “It’s a big amount I know, but if you can spare anything.”  

Over the last two months The Independent has pieced together a money trail that stretches from living rooms across Europe, Southeast Asia and beyond, and ends with jihadi families escaping from the squalid camps in the Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria.  

The investigation shows women, including Brits, are increasingly spearheading these fundraising drives run by Isis-affiliated networks by using social media platforms and unconventional funding systems such as cryptocurrencies and money transfer apps to funnel cash to smugglers.  

We have spoken to several European Isis-affiliated women behind the schemes, including those inside al-Hol, those inside Roj, which is smaller and more heavily policed, as well as those who have escaped and are now in northwest Syria, Turkey and abroad.  

We have also reviewed money transfer receipts as well as hundreds of messages in Telegram channels and Facebook pages created to support the fundraising efforts .

The new methods have made it easier and faster for the women to get money to smugglers in Syria who can bribe security officials to make the escapes possible.

Sara is among former affiliates of the jihadi group using the tools of electronic finance to fund her escape.  

Her story was first shared in a general call out across different Syrian and international pro-Isis messaging forums or channels on the popular Telegram app regularly fish...

Continue on independent.co.uk
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