Tania Joya (born 1983) is a British-American former jihadi and current counter-extremism activist who fled Syria after traveling there with husband John Georgelas to join the Islamic State, and asserted that she had an extramarital romantic relationship with US Representative Van Taylor, who subsequently acknowledged having a relationship and dropped out of a 2022 Texas runoff election.
1983 (age 39–40)
|Known for||Counter-extremism advocacy|
Joya was born as Joya Choudhury in Harrow, north London, UK in 1983 to a "culturally Muslim" Bengali-Bangladeshi family.
She experienced racism growing up in the UK and became a "jihadi hardcore" soon after the September 11 attacks, associating with a group of fundamentalist Algerians.
In 2003, at an anti-war protest in London she was given a piece of paper with a link to a Muslim-dating website, she went on the website and met John Georgelas, an American who had recently converted to Islam. She moved to the USA after marrying Georgelas in Rochdale on his first trip to London in 2004. The couple shared a passion for jihad and dreamed of training their children to be jihadis.
In 2006, Georgelas was sentenced to three years in prison for hacking a pro-Israeli lobby group.
In 2013, the couple moved to Egypt from where Georgelas tricked Joya into travel to Azaz, Aleppo, Syria and where Georgelas joined the Islamic State. After two weeks, she fled Syria, and sought US permission to return to the US, via Turkey. In the US, she cooperated with authorities and stayed with her parents-in-law in Plano, Texas. She has renounced Islam and attends a Unitarian church.
In June 2018, Joya divorced Georgelas and remarried. She found her second husband to be "controlling" and did not want to move to Colorado with him, so she divorced him.
In March 2022, Joya was living in Plano, and was training to become a hypnotherapist.
Joya claims she is committed to "reprogramming" extremists, and speaks at events in the US about countering extremism. She works with Faith Matters, a counter-extremism group in the UK, and the Clarion Project.
In 2019, she urged the British public to show mercy to Shamima Begum.
Van Taylor infidelity allegationsEdit
On February 27, 2022, two days before the primary election for Texas's 3rd congressional district, right-wing media outlet National File posted an interview with Joya in which she discussed having a nine-month sexual affair in 2020 and 2021 with Van Taylor, Republican US Representative serving the 3rd district, who was married to another woman and was facing several primary challengers. Saying that she met Taylor at a jihadi reprogramming session, Joya shared salacious details about the affair, and said that Taylor gave her US$5,000 for her credit card bills and personal expenses. Her statements were repeated the next day by Breitbart News and circulated widely on social media. The Texas Tribune could not independently verify any of Joya's claims. In a statement to The Dallas Morning News, Joya said she was "annoyed at having to see her ex-lover's face on billboards" and approached Taylor's Republican opponent Suzanne Harp, hoping that Harp would privately persuade Taylor to drop out of the race, but Taylor did not do so, prompting Joya to make her allegations public.
On March 1, 2022, Taylor won a plurality but not a majority of Republican primary votes, triggering a May 24 runoff election. The next day, in an email to supporters, Taylor announced the suspension of his reelection campaign and admitted to an extramarital affair. On March 4, Taylor withdrew from the runoff, thus ceding it to runner-up Keith Self.
In popular cultureEdit
The 2022 Discovery+ documentary A Radical Life presents the story of Joya and her ex-husband, John Georgelas.
She is the mother of four children. She was pregnant with her fourth child when she fled Syria.
- ^ Pesta, Abigail (November 2017). "The Convert". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Lizzie, Dearden (2017-11-07). "Former Isis jihadi claims racism she experienced growing up in London fuelled her radicalisation". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b c d Culbertson, Alix (18 Feb 2019). "'It's all a lie': British IS bride who escaped while pregnant speaks out". Sky News. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ The former 'First Lady of ISIS' now loves Reform Jews, plans to visit Jerusalem| By DAVID HOROVITZ | 7 Jan 2019, |Times of Israel
- ^ a b c d e f g "To Syria And Back: How 2 Women Escaped Their Radicalized Husbands". NPR.org. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b c d e Joya, Tania (2020-09-04). "Experience: I was married to an Islamic State leader". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b Wood, Graeme (2017-11-03). "From the Islamic State to Suburban Texas". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b c d "Tania Joya, l'ex-jihadiste qui lutte contre les radicaux". Le Point (in French). 2019-07-20. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ Rivalland, Monique. "I was an Isis bride from London — then one day I escaped". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b c d e f g Gillman, Todd J. (2022-03-02). "Rep. Van Taylor apologizes for affair with 'ISIS bride,' abruptly drops reelection bid". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved 2022-03-03.
Joya said she didn't intend to inject herself into the election and didn't even realize the primary was five days away when she contacted Harp. She was just annoyed at having to see her ex-lover's face on billboards as she drove around Plano. "All I wanted was for Suzanne Harp to just say, 'Hey, I know your little scandal with Tania Joya. Would you like to resign before we embarrass you?' But it didn't happen like that," Joya told The News.
- ^ a b Horovitz, David. "The former 'First Lady of ISIS' now loves Reform Jews, plans to visit Jerusalem". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b Caldwell, Emily; Gillman, Todd J. (2022-03-03). "Who is the 'ISIS bride' whose affair with Rep. Van Taylor prompted him to drop reelection bid?". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved 2022-03-03.
- ^ "Ex-jihadist Tania Joya now fights to 'reprogram' extremists". France 24. 2019-07-20. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ Thuman, SCOTT (2019-07-18). "Former radical extremist opens up to Congress and the media". WPMI. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- ^ a b c Svitek, Patrick (2022-03-02). "U.S. Rep. Van Taylor ends reelection campaign after he admits to affair". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2022-03-03.
- ^ Caldwell, Emily (March 11, 2022). "Keith Self, ex-Collin County judge, now GOP nominee for Rep. Van Taylor's seat after incumbent exits". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved March 21, 2022.
- ^ Goldsmith, Jill (September 16, 2022). "Hamptons Film Festival Sets Lineup With 'EO', 'Call Jane', 'Decision To Leave', Adds 'Women Talking' As Centerpiece – Update". Deadline Hollywood.
Three are world premieres: Discovery+ docs A Radical Life, by Ricki Stern, an unfiltered look at the former First Lady of ISIS, Tania Joya, who for 12 years was married to John Georgelas, the highest ranking American in ISIS; ...
- ^ Walker, Noelle (7 Aug 2019). "Ex-Wife of Highest Ranking American in ISIS Speaks Out Against Extremists of All Kinds". NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. Retrieved 2022-03-06.