At the age of 26, Azi Ahmed turned her back on an arranged marriage and instead chose to sign up to the SAS’s Territorial Army unit.
At 4ft 11in and weighing just 7st, she was an unlikely recruit to the elite squad’s reserve. Even more so that she was a Muslim.
Sixteen years on, Ms Ahmed, a Conservative Party activist and friend of Sir Michael Fallon, has found herself the victim of a vicious race hate campaign over her SAS training.
She believes it has been orchestrated by the Kremlin because of her links to the Defence Secretary.
Last month, Russia Today, a television network financed by Vladimir Putin’s government, published an online article, questioning Ms Ahmed’s version of events over her attempt to join 21 SAS, the reserve regiment of the special forces unit.
Only a few months earlier at the Conservative Party conference, Ms Ahmed, an internet entrepreneur and the defeated Tory candidate for Rochdale in the 2015 election, had introduced Sir Michael to delegates.
Russia Today cast doubt on her claims over her time in the SAS, which she subsequently turned into a book ‘Worlds Apart: A Muslim Girl with the SAS'. The network quoted a former paratrooper Alfie Usher, who said SAS sources had told him Ms Ahmed had “‘at most” been put through a pre-training “beat-up course” which he described as “selection lite”.
It quoted a former SAS instructor at the time who conceded Ms Ahmed was attached to 21 SAS but added: “She claims she did the same as the blokes. That’s an outright lie.”
The article triggered a flood of vile race hate and sexist abuse on social media that made Ms Ahmed fear for her life.
“You lying piece of trash,” wrote one internet troll. “You want a smack in your ugly p--- mouth you scum. We are hunting you down for a chat, b----”
Ms Ahmed said: “They included allegations that I lied about my training, demanded a public apology, accused me of stealing from the Aarmy. They [called] me as lying whore, scum, fraudster.
“I eventually stopped reading and mechanically pressed delete as they came in.”
The systematic, well-orchestrated attack forced her to close down her Facebook, Twitter and email accounts. She also says her website was hacked. As a result of the abuse the Conservative Party called her into a meeting to respond to the allegations while her public speaking engagements have dried up.
Ms Ahmed denies lying about her training and says the military pulled the plug on what had been an experiment to see if women could complete the SAS training course.
She also accused the Kremlin of ordering the attack on her to discredit the Defence Secretary.
Ms Ahmed said: “I believe the Russians are behind the attacks, working in cahoots with former British soldiers.
“My training was 16 years ago. So why now and why so nasty? I believe the Russians would not have published if I hadn’t introduced Sir Michael, and it must have been to partly to try to embarrass him.
“My website blog was hacked, which seems out of character for normal internet trolls. What hurt me most was that they accused me of profiting from the training.
“But proceeds from my book go to a veteran charity, Care After Combat.
“The book did not sensationalise 21 SAS but tried to show the world that the British Army is a forward thinking establishment.
“It’s not racist or sexist. I just wanted to promote diversity in the Army and bring back British identity through my political work.”
Jim Davidson, the comedian and chairman of the Care after Combat charity, defended Ms Ahmed, who served with the Territorial Army for two and a half years from 1999 until 2002. “This is a vile attack on a very plucky woman,” he said. "Azi does a lot of great work for the military and we as a charity receive royalties from her book.
“I know the SAS soldier who trained her and he said she was bloody good.
“I think people should be supporting someone who is courageous enough to do what she has done.”