Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – This story is a co-production between CBC and BBC and is part of Bloodlines, a podcast series co-produced by CBC Podcasts and BBC Sounds about the children of ISIS fighters left behind when the West defeated the militants. The first episode will be available Oct. 23. Subscribe to the series here.
A Canadian woman whose marriage to a notorious ISIS fighter is being made public for the first time says she was “oblivious to what was going on” when she lived with him in Syria.
In an interview with CBC and U.K. public broadcaster BBC in Toronto last week, Dure Ahmed, 33, said she was unaware of the atrocities being committed by her then-husband El Shafee Elsheikh, who was part of a cell within ISIS linked to the abduction, torture and beheading of Western hostages.
“It’s like I was oblivious to what was going on,” she said.
She said she accepts that her time with Elsheikh was part of her life, “whether I like it or not.”
Ahmed, who was born in Canada to Ethiopian parents, travelled from Canada to join the British-born Elsheikh in Syria in 2014. She says she wasn’t radicalized but was just “a dumb girl in love.”
After the defeat of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, in Syria in 2019, she ended up in a Kurdish-controlled camp in northern Syria for the wives and children of suspected ISIS militants. In April of this year, Ahmed and her two sons were among a group of women and children repatriated to Canada.
Ahmed claims Elsheikh had not told her he had joined ISIS before she left Canada to be with him. She insists she was unaware of ISIS’s ideology when she arrived in Syria.
“Smoking weed,” Ahmed said with a laugh. “He didn’t care about God. It was nothing to do with IS.”
Ahmed was 24 and a jobless graduate when she finally agreed to join her husband in 2014. She says she had not seen the horrors of the ISIS beheadings, which were being reported widely.
“It might be really hard to think, but it’s honestly the truth,” she said.
According to her, Elsheikh arranged everything. All she had to do was “hop on a plane” to Turkey.
Ahmed says her family is receiving ounseling and support from a Canadian government-funded organization that assists people from conflict zones and deals with all forms of extremism.
“You know, their life was always in danger. That’s why I’m so grateful,” she said. “Being back now and being able to kind of help with that damage, it’s reversing it.”