A 65-year-old mother from Tajikistan has made an emotional appeal to the leader of the Islamic State militant group, asking that her only daughter be allowed to return home from Syria.
Mayram Olimova from the city of Kulob in southeastern Tajikistan called on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to permit her 24-year-old daughter Gulru Emomovna Olimova and her three grandchildren to come back to Tajikistan.
"I don't want to speak badly of him. Let him pity me and return my daughter to me," Olimova said of Baghdadi.
Olimova told RFE/RL's Tajik Service (also known as Radio Ozodi) on February 11 that she had learned from her son-in-law two weeks ago of Gulru's decision to take her three small children -- 7-year-old Fotima, 4-year-old Ahmad, and 6-monthold Rumaiso -- to Syria from Russia.
Gulru had gone to Syria because her husband had asked her to do so, Olimova said.
"When I found out she was in Syria, I didn't know what to do. I have no one, apart from her. I've only got one daughter," Olimova told Radio Ozodi.
Olimova said that, as yet, she has not approached the law-enforcement authorities in Kulob about her daughter.
Gulru's husband was also from Kulob but had gone to Russia for work.
The man's father, Sherafkan Radzhabov, told Radio Ozodi that his son had called him from Moscow in September and asked him to send Gulru and the three children to join him in Russia.
"He said he had found a job with good conditions in a sanatorium outside Moscow, where he was going to live with his family. We bought tickets and sent them," Radzhabov said.
Two months later, the young man called again, Radzhabov recalls. This time, however, he didn't say where he was, just that he was "doing well."
"His phone number wasn't Russian," Radzhabov noted.
Radzhabov said that if his son calls home again, he will ask him to come home, because he can no longer tolerate his mother-in-law's crying.
According to Vosi Salimzoda of the Serious Crimes Unit of the Khatlon region's prosecutor's office, four Tajik men have returned voluntarily from the fighting in Syria and were not subjected to criminal proceedings. Salimzoda said that under Article 187 of Tajikistan's Penal Code, those who voluntarily return home and express remorse are exempt from punishment.
Salimzoda mentioned the case of one returnee, Bakhtiyor Safarov, who was "released after a talk."
Safarov was named in previous reports as having been recruited to fight in Syria by Davlat Cholov, the brother of Qurbon Cholov, a former influential field commander in the pro-government paramilitary group the Popular Front of Tajikistan during the five-year civil war.
Cholov was arrested on February 12, 2014, alongside another Tajik citizen, and released on December 10, 2014, after being ordered to pay a fine.
Safarov had returned to Tajikistan from Syria after realizing that it was "not a just war and that he could be killed," according to Radio Ozodi.
Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry told Radio Ozodi that returning Tajik nationals from Islamic State-controlled territories is a complex process.
The ministry is prepared to provide assistance to Tajiks who have left Syria for Arab countries or Turkey, according to Abdulfaiz Atoi, the head of the ministry's Information Department.
"If [Tajik citizens] appeal to our consulates in those countries, they will be assisted to return to their homeland," Atoi said.
It is not known how many Tajik nationals are fighting in Syria. Official figures, according to Radio Ozodi, put the number at 300. According to Edward Lemon, who tracks Tajik fighters in Syria, there is online evidence of just 22 fighters, though there are likely to be more unreported Tajiks in Syria.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk