Varvara Karaulova, 19, is a shy philosophy student at Moscow State University. She goes by the nickname “Varya,” but her father, Pavel Karaulov, doesn’t know if he’ll be able to call her that again.
Pavel fears his daughter, an academic-minded girl who speaks several languages, has left their native Russia to join the Islamic State. She boarded a one-way flight to Istanbul on May 27, and it’s not uncommon for ISIS recruits to travel to Syria through Turkey.
Pavel first realized something was amiss when Varvara, who doesn’t live with him, emailed her father a short message: “I’m safe and I’ll be shortly in contact with you.” She also asked her mother to take care of her dog. “She loved her dog very much,” Pavel said.
When Pavel did some digging, he learned that Varvara had recently changed her behavior after taking Arabic classes. “Whenever she was leaving home, she was wearing jeans and boots,” he said. “And whenever she got to the university, she changed into a hijab, a long-sleeve jacket and a long skirt.”
“That’s something that is shocking,” he added. “I was never told beforehand about that.”
Pavel told authorities about his daughter’s strange behavior, and intelligence agents told him she had changed her name to Nour, which means “light” in Arabic, upon arriving in Turkey.
Varvara was recently tracked to a specific area of Istanbul, and Pavel is hopeful. “I hope good news will come soon,” he said.
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