Nicole Lynn Mansfield: Syria Civil War Kills One Of Michigan's Own Native Daughters

The family of Nicole Lynn Mansfield, one of the latest casualties in the Syrian resistance war, has several questions, but one sounds the strongest: Was she brainwashed?

What else, they wonder, could drive this 33 year old mother of a teenager from her home in Flint, Michigan, to the battlefields of Syria?

The conflict in Syria, a remnant of 2011’s Arab Spring movement, stems from protests against the ruling family and current government. Armed resistance fighting first began when the government gave the order to fire on protesters. There are no recognized fronts in this war, and fighting can break out anywhere.

Mansfield began to worry her family when she converted to Islam after marrying a Muslim man, whom she subsequently divorced after he received his green card. After marriage, she began wearing the hijab, the veil that many Muslim women use to cover their hair. 

Although she stated that this was her wish, that proper Muslim women should always have their hair covered, and that to be Muslim was the best thing for her, Mansfield’s family still had doubts. A health worker for years, after getting her GED and some college education, Mansfield was still seen as “weak minded,” by her grandmother, 72 year old Carole Mansfield.

And yet, isn’t this the assumption usually made about converts, especially those who go from a recognized and supported Christian denomination — in Mansfield’s case, Baptist — to something seen by many as radical by its very existence in America — Islam? 

Of course, it is possible that Mansfield’s Muslim husband brainwashed her, filled her weak-minded head with plenty of nonsense about liberation and radicalization and a righteous fight for freedom. It is equally possible that a grown woman saw something she believed in and went to fight for it, defying family, country, tradition, and the cultural and language barriers that stood in her way.

One thing, and one thing alone is certain in this situation — all media is distortion, even this article. There is virtually no way to know the "truth" of her situation, and definitely no way to know what was going on in her mind as she faced death with a few English citizens by her side. 

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Rebecca Gibson

Rebecca Gibson is graduating from Brandeis University with an MA in Women's and Gender Studies and Anthropology. Her major interests include LGBTQ rights, Victorian corsetry, osteology, archaeology, and marriage equality. She has taught, edited, and written for various university publications.

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