We Spoke To Women Who Married Into ISIS In Syria. These Are Their Regrets.

AIN AL-ISSA, Syria — Aisha Khadad was an English teacher, a wife and mother to two small children with another on the way, when Syria’s violent convulsions caught up with her.

A Syrian regime sniper’s bullet felled the 30-year-old’s husband in 2012 in their hometown of Homs, she said. The widow wound up in Damascus for several years working as a single mom. Eventually, she moved, fell in love again, and remarried.

The town she moved to was Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’s crumbling, self-declared caliphate, and the man she married was a trained ISIS foreign fighter.

“We were looking for paradise but all we got was hell,” she said during an interview at a makeshift detention center inside a displaced persons camp 40 miles north of Raqqa, where she is being held by US-backed Syrian-Kurdish forces along with other suspected ISIS wives and their children.

“The big proof that (ISIS) are not good people is that they’re losing everything now,” she said. “Those who are victorious are on the right way. But, you know, they are losing. They are just retreating.”

After losing Mosul following a nine-month battle in Iraq, ISIS is now under pressure from US-backed forces surrounding Raqqa, the new focus of the campaign to deprive the group of territory.

The US-backed Syrian forces that are slowly eating away at ISIS’s capital have captured at least a dozen families of suspected foreign fighters. They include Khadad, a Tunisian woman, a Russian, a Lebanese-German dual national, and others. They are crowded in a series of cinder block buildings in the intelligence offices of the 5,000-person camp, which is funded in part by the UN. A group of women and the children of alleged ISIS members from Indonesia reside in a tent nearby. None has been accused of any crime. Many of the women are married to alleged foreign fighters. Since nationality in Syria is passed on through the father, the status of those children born in the caliphate is legally murky.

“We keep them away from everyone else because it’s very dangerous for them,” said an intelligence officer for Rojava, the Kurdish-dominated de facto government overseeing northeast Syria. “Maybe their husbands killed some of the other people’s relatives, and the others in the camp will seek revenge. The rest of the people in the camp may also feel afraid of them.”

BuzzFeed News was granted access by the Raqqa Municipal Council and the refugee camp’s intelligence office to speak to several of the women inside the facility, as well as to the Indonesian family, over several hours. Some were eager to speak, while others declined. One stayed inside a room and sang Qur’anic verses to her children, one of whom was named after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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