Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

ISIS Wives Dream of Returning Home

ISIS Wives Dream of Returning Home

Thursday, 2 November, 2017 - 09:45
Habibah Afifi who was forced to travel to Syria. Asharq Al-Awsat

It’s a small isolated house in Ain Issa, 50 kilometers northwest of Raqqa, where guards from the Syrian Democratic Forces stand and prevent anyone from entering without the written permission of the camp’s administration.

It seems to be a place allotted for the mere detention of ISIS militants’ wives.

They are women who have made long journeys after a dream that turned out to be an illusion. One was from Belgium in addition to three others from Russia not to mention the French women from Moroccan, Spanish, Dutch, Azerbaijani and Arab roots.

“Yes, I was delighted when I knew my husband was killed. I couldn’t believe that I have finally gotten rid of his oppression,” Habibah Afif, 33, a Spanish woman of Moroccan origin told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Her husband forced her to travel to Syria after joining ISIS. A year later he was killed, leaving her to raise their five children alone.

With a pale face, Habibah continues: “When we were in Spain I didn’t notice the extremism of my husband. He used to pray, shave his beard and cut his hair normally. But he showed sympathy with the Syrian people and their suffering.”

When they arrived in Turkey, he informed her of his decision to go to Syria and join al-Nusra Front, before pledging allegiance to ISIS. Habibah refused this irrational decision but had to accompany him after he made threats to deprive her of her children.

Next to Habibah sits Dilber Artur, an 18-year-old who hails from Azerbaijan. Yet, she looks older after all the tragic experiences she went through at an early age. This is how she talked about herself, and she explained the reasons that made her travel to Syria with her father who joined ISIS after his divorce.

There, Artur was forced to marry an ISIS militant who was killed months later. Her second husband, also a militant, met the same fate.

Last April, the Syrian Democratic Forces seized Tabqa with the backing of US-led coalition airstrikes. Habibah was residing in Tabqa so she was displaced with her kids to Al-Mayadeen. But another obstacle hindered her when she was willing to escape five months later.

“My eldest son, 14, joined ISIS. I told him once that we should leave Syria and return to our country so he warned me of doing so, and threatened to inform ISIS,” she said.

“I was scared and shocked by what he said so we escaped without telling him,” Habibah added, who has been residing in Ain Issa camp for the past three months.

Dilber managed to escape with her two-year-old child around twenty days ago. She dreams of returning to normal life in her home country.

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