A petite Syrian girl found herself lured into the Islamic State by a polite, smooth-talking ISIS fighter she met online. Seduced by the sense of power, she became part of the female ISIS brigade before quickly realizing the evil environment she was involved with. She managed to escape and described her horrific experience to CNN.
The 25-year-old college graduate with a degree in education, met with a network journalist in a hotel room in Turkey, where she would not reveal her true name as she is now a marked woman — she simply goes by ‘Khadija.’
Khadija grew up in Syria where she was once involved in peaceful protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, before running away “to something uglier,” she told the reporter.
The girl was gradually inducted into the Islamic State, moved to the ISIS run Syrian town of Raqqa, and welcomed into the feared Khansa’a brigade who is tasked with patrolling the streets of Raqqa to ensure that women adhere to proper clothing as outlined by the Islamic State, according to CNN.
Muslim women found in violation of the strict Islamic State dresscode were lashed by the brigade’s terrifying leader, Umm Hamza. Khadija described her as “not a normal female. She’s huge, she has an AK, a pistol, a whip, a dagger and she wears the niqab.”
Khadija started having second thoughts and wished she had heeded her mother’s warnings.
“At the start, I was happy with my job. I felt that I had authority in the streets,” she told the reporter. “But then I started to get scared, scared of my situation. I even started to be afraid of myself.”
The girl’s image of ISIS began to crumble as she witnessed a man getting beheaded right in front of her. Even more personally, she witnessed ISIS’ brand of violence reserved for women. The brigade shared its building with a man who specialized in marriage for ISIS fighters.
“He was one of the worst people,” she said of the man tasked with finding wives for both local and foreign fighters. “The foreign fighters are very brutal with women, even the ones they marry,” she said. “There were cases where the wife had to be taken to the emergency ward because of the violence, the sexual violence.”
When Khadija’s commander began pressuring her to submit to marriage, she saw a future she did not want and left the brigade. Khadija left just days before the coalition airstrikes, but her family remains in Syria, while she was smuggled across the border to Turkey.
Khadija is trying to figure out life after ISIS, but still wears the niqab, not just to conceal her identity but also because she’s struggling to adapt back to life outside the Islamic State. Regretful of her immersion in radical Islam, she is wary of another sudden change.
Khadija agreed to the brave interview because she said she wants people, especially women, to know the truth about ISIS. “I don’t want anyone else to be duped by them. Too many girls think they are the right Islam,” she said.
Watch her exclusive interview with CNN here: