Middle East

CNN: ISIS leader’s ex-wife: He was a family man

She was married to the most wanted man in the world, the leader of ISIS.

In her first interview since her release from a Lebanese prison last year, Saja al-Dulaimi recalled to CNN Swedish affiliate Expressen TV what it was like to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's wife and what she fears for the daughter she bore with him.
Expressen said it spoke to Dulaimi, 28, in a secret location near the border of Lebanon and Syria. Here's what she said:
'He was a family man'
Born in Iraq to an upper-middle-class conservative family, Dulaimi was married off to Baghdadi. He was not a bloodthirsty terrorist back then, she claims.
"I married a normal person, a university lecturer," she said. "He was a family man."
She wasn't his only bride; she had to share him with another wife. "He went to work and came home to his family," Dulaimi said.
"He was great. He was the children's ideal father. The way he was with children … he was a teacher — you know how teachers are. He knew how to deal with children, better than how to deal with the mother."
But the two did not talk much like others couples do. The reason? He had a "mysterious personality," Dulaimi answered.
And it was difficult being the second wife. "It's hard for two wives to live together," she said. Their union, she said, ended seven years ago.
'I wasn't happy'
Dulaimi said she ran away from Baghdadi after she became pregnant. She wouldn't say exactly why, but explained, "I wasn't happy."
She told Expressen TV that she did not love him. "The fact that I got out is proof of that," she said.
He tried to get her back several times. "But I'd already made my mind up," she said. They last spoke in 2009, Dulaimi said, when Baghdadi again tried to get her back.
She didn't tell him that she bore him a daughter. But he found out a while later, she said. "He said he'd take her when I remarry," Dulaimi said.
'The entire world's disaster on her shoulders'
Dulaimi is worried for her daughter's safety. "I'm scared of everyone; that's what's happened," she said.
She is very concerned for the girl, who says she hopes to get an education abroad. "She's the one who now … suffers," her mother said. "She has the entire world's disaster upon her shoulders."
Now the young mother dreams of a life with her daughter in Europe. She wants the girl to go to school. It will be a better and safer life, she believes.
"I want to live in a European country, not an Arab country," she said. "I want my children to live and get an education."
"Even if her mother was married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a terrorist … what is the child guilty of there?"
'I'm branded a terrorist, but I'm far from that'
Dulaimi said it makes her sad to think she will always be thought of as Baghdadi's ex-wife. "I'm branded a terrorist, but I'm far from all that," she said.
Europeans should accept her, regardless of her past relationship with Baghdadi, she said. "No bearer of burdens shall bear another's burden.
"I mean, where is my guilt if I was married to him in 2008? We're divorced now. I was the one who left him, not the other way around."
"I'm a woman who's been through a lot and had to suffer in prison," said Dulaimi, who was arrested in Lebanon in December 2014 as she was trying to enter the country from Syria. "Now I want to settle down," she said.
"If I'd wanted to live with him, I'd have lived like a princess," she said. "I could have moved in with them and had loads of money. But I don't want money."
She wants something more. "I want to live in freedom, [to] live like everyone else."

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