Saja al-Dulaimi, the Iraqi ex-wife of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has given an interview to Swedish newspaper Expressen, NBC News reports. Al-Dulaimi told the publication that she married al-Baghdadi while he was still known as Hisham Mohammad and worked as a lecturer at a university. It was Al-Dulaimi’s second marriage; her first husband had died while fighting against American troops in Iraq.
Al-Dulaimi moved into al-Baghdadi’s house, where she lived with her own children, al-Baghdadi’s first wife, and his first wife’s children. Al-Dulaimi claims she “didn’t notice” her former husband participating in the Syrian resistance, and described him as a “normal family man.” And yet, al-Dulaimi said that al-Baghdadi was “mysterious.”
“I didn’t love him,” she explained. “He was an enigmatic person. You couldn’t have a discussion or hold a normal conversation with him … He just asked about things and told me to fetch things. He gave orders, nothing more.”
After a few months of marriage, al-Dulaimi decided to flee — even though she was pregnant with al-Baghdadi’s daughter. In 2014, she was arrested in Lebanon for crossing illegally into the country. “They showed me pictures of my ex-husband and asked me if I recognized him,” she said. “It turns out I was married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a shock to find out — seven years later — that I’d been married to the most dangerous man in the world.”
In December 2015, al-Dulaimi was freed in a prisoner swap between Lebanon and al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing. Despite her connection to al-Baghdadi, she hopes to make a new life in the West. “Where is my guilt?” al-Dulaimi asked. “I was the one who left him.”
Read the full story at NBC News.