My daughter and the caliphate | DW Documentary
DW Documentary DW Documentary
3.09M subscribers
12K 767

 Published On Sep 05, 2019

A father fights to save his daughter who has run off to join the terror organization Islamic State. For four long years Maik Messing doesn’t know if she will survive the ordeal. And for those same four years he was joined by a camera Team.

"Your own child prefers to live among terrorists rather than with you, and even thinks it’s cool. That just destroys you!" When Maik Messing‘s daughter Leonora suddenly disappeared in 2015, the whole world changed for this father from Saxony-Anhalt.

Maik hadn’t noticed that his daughter had been radicalized. Leonora had been living a parallel Islamic existence online, sharing experiences on facebook and whatsapp groups. The prospect of living in the so-called Caliphate held no fear for her. After leaving Germany, she married high-ranking German IS terrorist Martin Lemke, who worked for IS intelligence. As his third wife, Leonora began her married life in the IS capital Raqqa. She stayed in touch with her family back home via voice messages and social media.

Meanwhile, Leonora’s father undertook everything in his power to get his daughter back to Germany: "This is life or death. That much is absolutely clear."

For four years a TV crew accompanied Maik - a baker by vocation - as he met with human traffickers from Syria and negotiated with terrorists, all while trying to continue with his daily life in Germany.
Any attempts to rescue his daughter were extremely precarious. Islamic State controlled not only the streets of Raqqa, but each and every person who lived there. At times, the psychological pressure for Maik Messing was so great he even contemplated suicide.

The film offers not only a rare glimpse of life inside the Islamic State, but also depicts this often brutal existence from the perspective of a naive teenager. One who, in the middle of it all, still finds time to listen to German pop musi.

Update July 2020:
According to information provided by the German broadcaster NDR, Leonora is still in the al-Hawl detention center in Syria with her two children. Her family has taken legal action against the German government to have Leonora and the children brought back to Germany. The court has ruled in favor of the family. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic it is not clear when and under which circumstances their return can take place. It is also unclear whether Leonora will be taken into custody upon her return.


DW Documentary gives you knowledge beyond the headlines. Watch high-class documentaries from German broadcasters and international production companies. Meet intriguing people, travel to distant lands, get a look behind the complexities of daily life and build a deeper understanding of current affairs and global events. Subscribe and explore the world around you with DW Documentary.

Subscribe to DW Documentary:

Our other YouTube channels:
DW Documental (in spanish):
DW Documentary وثائقية دي دبليو: (in arabic):

For more documentaries visit also:

DW netiquette policy:

show more