A surprise vacation is usually a source of joy for couples. For Samantha Sally, it was the beginning of a nightmare.
According to CNN, Sally was your average Indiana packing plant worker, married to a Muslim man and raising two children.
“A holiday is what her husband, Moussa Elhassani, promised her when she went to Hong Kong in 2014,” CNN reported. “The couple was planning to move to Morocco to start a new, cheaper life, she says, and needed to go through Hong Kong to transfer money.”
“Days later, Sally says, she stood on the Turkish border with Syria, on the edge of ISIS territory, her husband holding her daughter, Sarah, while she held her son, Matthew, then 7, confronted with an impossible choice: Abandon her daughter to ISIS and save her son, or follow her husband into ISIS’s so-called Caliphate. Following him was the only way to protect her daughter, she says.”
“To stay there with my son or watch my daughter leave with my husband — I had to make a decision,” Sally told CNN from northern Syria, where she is currently in custody. “Maybe I would never have seen my daughter again ever, and how can I live the rest of my life like that.”
Sally’s marriage to Elhassani was her second, as she was previously married to a U.S. soldier.
“Elhassani took delight in souped-up cars, family videos show, and, according to Sally, used drugs and cheated on her — showing few signs of devout faith,” CNN reported.
“Their marriage was rocky at times, but Elhassani came up with a plan to move to his native Morocco for a year, where she could get cheap surgery on her knee and they might find a new start,” the outlet continued.
However, that move to Morocco from her Elkhart, Indiana home wasn’t to happen.
First, the couple went to Hong Kong to transfer funds. Then, they took what was supposed to be a romantic trip to Turkey, where Elhassani gave Sally numerous gifts.
However, Sally didn’t see the warning signs. Transferring money through Hong Kong is a classic move to avoid the eyes of law enforcement. And then things took a turn when they arrived in the border town of Sanliurfa.
Sally says Elhassani refused to let her leave the hotel room, saying it was “too dangerous.”
“Once we got to Sanliurfa everything changed,” she told CNN. “I was like a prisoner in the room.”
Then, she says she was forced to cross the border into Syria and into the Islamic State’s caliphate. Everything changed at that point, particularly her relationship with Elhassani.
“Before he would spoil me. ‘I love you.’ We were very much in love,” she said. “The romance never left. As soon as we came here it changed. I was a dog. I didn’t have any choice. He was extremely violent. And there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing.”
She was also jailed by the Islamic State group for three months for trying to escape, during which time she was sexually assaulted. The couple also bought two slaves, who Elhassani routinely raped.
Sally’s husband was eventually killed in a drone strike. “I was able to breathe,” Sally said of his death. “I was like — OK — we can start phase two. At least now we can all breathe.”
Now, the former Islamic State bride remains in custody as U.S. officials decide whether to bring her home and/or press charges. Some wonder if she’s telling the full story.
“People can think whatever they want but they have not been put in a place to make a decision like that,” Sally said.
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