Maria Giulia Sergio

Maria Giulia Sergio

Maria Giulia Sergio, also known as Fatima Zahra, was born in Torre del Greco (NA) on September 23, 1987, but her family had moved to Inzago (MI). In 2015, she was charged with art. 270 bis of the Italian Criminal Code for criminal association with the purpose of terrorism, having enlisted within ISIS after traveling to Syria with her husband Aldo Kobuzi and having conducted proselytism with the aim of recruiting towards her sister Marianna and her own parents.
Maria Giulia converted to Islam in 2009 and in 2012 she started wearing the niqab which quickly became a source of discrimination and Maria Giulia’s reaction was to embrace even more radical beliefs. She was living in Inzago with her parents, Assunta Buonfiglio, Sergio Sergio and her sister Marianna Sergio who were all Islam converts. The Sergios were a low income family, as only Sergio was working, Assunta was a housewife and Maria Giulia and Marianna were primarily students who occasionally worked. From court documents it is revealed that Maria Giulia had been previously married to a man named Jamal from whom she had asked for a divorce because his beliefs were not radical enough.
Bushra Haik’s Skype study groups such as “Aqidah and Tafsir” contributed to Maria Giulia’s radicalisation and subsequent decision to leave for Syria to join the Islamic State, but the choice of doing jihad was based on an identity crisis at a social and individual level: this is why Maria Giulia changed her name into Fatima, abandoned her previous Christian life and was re-born under the radical Islam. In 2014, when she met Lubjana Gjecaj at the festival of the Islamic book in the mosque of San Paolo d’Argon, she was already one of Haik’s students. Gjecaj and Maria Giulia quickly became friends and revealed to her that she was looking for a husband to do hijra with and the woman introduced Maria Giulia to Aldo Kobuzi, an Albanian man who was looking for a wife.
On September 17, 2014, Maria Giulia and Aldo Kobuzi got married in Treviglio, after he had arrived to Italy from Albania a few days prior. The wedding party was hosted by Dritan and Lubjana Djecaj in their house, as the Imam of Treviglio refused to celebrate their wedding. On September 21, the newlyweds and Donika Coku, Aldo’s mom, flew from Rome to Istanbul first and then took a domestic flight to Gaziantep, a city close to the Syrian border. Phone records reveal that they were in all probability helped by Ahmed Abu Alharith, a known ISIS handler, to cross the Syrian border. Once arrived in the town of Sed Forouk in Syria, they met with Aldo’s sister, Serjola Kobuzi, who had moved to the Islamic State earlier that year.
In various phone and chat conversations dating back to the end of 2014, Maria Giulia told her family about their life under the Islamic State, confessing that Aldo was excluded from fighting because his sister Serjola had just become a widow and was about to give birth so the man of the family needed to stay home. She also revealed that Aldo had been sent to a military training camp in Iraq to become a fighter and that the Islamic State was providing for her in the absence of her husband while she was practicing how to use weapons.
Once in Syria, Maria Giulia started engaging in proselytism towards her family trying to convince them to do hijra and follow her in Syria. She even told them that the trip would be organised for them and not to mention the idea to anyone, especially since her departure appeared on Italian newspapers after the Charlie Hebdo attack on January 2015. To convince her mother Assunta Buonfiglio, the defendant would describe the life they would have under the Islamic State, reassuring them that the Caliphate would provide and guarantee all services to its citizens. They would even have heated conversations in which Maria Giulia would insist by rephrasing Haik’s teachings about the duty of true Muslims and the threat of damnation, evidence of her strength of character and her ideological fervour. At first, Maria Giulia’s proselytism was not entirely successful: when it comes to her parents, although at first they announced on March 20 their affirmative decision to leave for Syria as Sergio Sergio would have quit his job and collect his pension money, a few days later they had a change of heart. Therefore, Maria Giulia’s efforts concentrated on her sister: she was able to persuade Marianna to leave alone in March 2015 by reminding her of her duty to do hijra and by manipulating religious citations and stories previously learned by Haik.
Finally, in April 2015, driven by the insistence of Marianna and Maria Giulia, the Sergios decided to leave for the Caliphate, withdrawing Sergio’s pension money, buying suitcases and applying for a passport. From April onwards, the Sergios and Maria Giulia would talk about their imminent trip with caution and in code: they were aware they could have been intercepted by the police. In the end, Maria Giulia’s parents were arrested hours before they were due to leave for Syria.
Maria Giulia Sergio was tried and convicted in absentia, as she has been a fugitive since 2014 probably still in Syria, although there has been no news about whether she is still alive. She was sentenced for participation to a terrorist organisation to nine years, a conviction that was later confirmed by the Court of Cassation of Rome in 2019.

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