Before he allegedly became one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, and the masked face of evil, Mohammed Emwazi was a young man with dreams of a better future and plans to start a family. But somewhere along his seemingly normal life’s trajectory, something went wrong – terribly wrong.
Who is the man the western media has dubbed “Jihadi John” and what do we know about him?1. The man who who is believed to have appeared in ISIS videos showing the beheadings of Western hostages, speaking English with a British accent has been identified as 26-year-old Mohammed Emwazi. The identity was known to Western intelligence officials for some time but was recently revealed by Western media. Born in Kuwait in 1988, Emwazi moved to the United Kingdom with his family at the age of 6, where he became a British citizen and spent his formative years and early adulthood.
2. As a child, Emwazi attended Quintic Kynaston Academy in northwest London. A school administrator, Jo Shutter, described Emwazi as “quiet” and “reasonably hard-working.” According to Shutter, Emwazi showed no signs of radicalization or extremist viewpoints or leanings. By Shutter’s account, Emwazi was a normal child who navigated the ordinary challenges of young adulthood like any other child.
3. Emwazi studied at the University of Westminster, the university and other sources with close ties to British security sources have confirmed. Emwazi had a very normal early-adulthood. He came from a supportive family. His father was extremely hard-working and Emwazi was – as the elder sibling of brothers and a sister – very responsible. Emwazi set his sights on getting married and landing a stable, meaningful job. On more than one occasion, Emwazi traveled to Kuwait to find work and managed to secure a position working for a Kuwaiti computer programming company where colleagues described him as a “hard worker” and “polite.” He also felt at home in Kuwait where he had a network of relatives and extended family.
4. As a young adult, Emwazi was reportedly harassed, intimidated and manipulated repeatedly by British security agents. Emwazi chronicled his encounters with British security agents in several emails. CAGE, a British non-governmental organization that helps victims of the so-called “war on terror,” released the emails on its website to shed light on Emwazi’s journey into radicalization. In his exchanges, Emwazi chronicled in great detail conversations with British security agents who had complicated his travel abroad by urging foreign governments to deny Emwazi entry into their countries. Emwazi also wrote about being repeatedly mistreated by intelligence agents at the behest of British authorities who tried to intimidate him into becoming an informant or an agent working for British Intelligence services. On several occasions, Emwazi was detained in airports, denied travel, and physically harassed. Life, according to Emwazi and the emails released by CAGE, became unbearable as he tried to seek legal recourse to clear his name. Emwazi was never charged in any terror-related activity.
5. After repeatedly trying to emigrate to Kuwait, Emwazi seems to have given up. In 2011, Emwazi traveled to Turkey to work Syrian refugees. Four months after he left, British authorities appeared at his family’s home in London believing he may have traveled to Syria. He didn’t play a high-profile role within ISIS propaganda until videos of ISIS’s fighters dressed in black began to surface showing the militants beheading Western hostages. The details surrounding Emwazi’s alleged radicalization and his rise among ISIS’s ranks are murky and incomplete. What is clear is that over three years, from the time he left the UK and with the rise of ISIS, Emwazi has become one of the world’s most wanted men because of his suspected role in the planet’s most notorious terrorist organization.