An American from the Midwest has told the improbable and harrowing story of how she became an ISIS widow. Samantha Sally told CNN how she ended up in Syrian-Kurdish custody after following her husband into Syria — and a life of beatings, torture, and serial rape — when he forced her to make an impossible choice. Sally, now 32, explained that she was forced to decide between staying behind in Turkey with her son, who was 7 at the time, and chasing after her husband who had taken the couple’s young daughter with him.
“I had to make a decision,” Sally recalled. “Maybe I would never have seen my daughter again ever, and how can I live the rest of my life like that?”
Sally and her husband Moussa Elhassani had been living an unremarkable life in Elkhart, Indiana, before Elhassani proposed that they move to his native Morocco for a year. Before moving, she said, they took a romantic vacation to Turkey when her formerly loving husband’s behavior abruptly became severe. She said he began to treat her like “a prisoner,” before taking her to the Syrian border and making her decide whether she would follow him.
“People can think whatever they want but they have not been put in a place to make a decision like that,” she said.
Elhassani became a sniper for ISIS. Meanwhile, Sally lived a lonely domestic existence punctuated by violent abuse from her husband. At one point, she said, she was jailed for three months by ISIS while pregnant for trying to escape. While in custody, she said, she endured torture and sexual abuse.
Later the family bought three slaves — two of whom were young teenage Yazidi girls — that Elhassani would rape. Sally has denied complicity in the girls’ serial rape, claiming that she was able to better protect them than if they had gone to other families. It was only last year after Elhassani was killed by drone strike, she said, that she finally felt she was “able to breathe.”
Speaking with CNN, one of the former Yazidi slaves expressed gratitude for Sally’s intervention, and the defiant ISIS widow expressed hope that she and her four children be allowed to return home to America.