A Swedish tabloid on Thursday published the first interview with a notorious terrorist leader’s ex-wife, who said she was shocked to find out she’d been married to “the most dangerous man in the world.”
Saga al-Dulaimi told Expressen that her marriage to the emir of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was “shallow.”
She also said he was a “normal family man” when she knew him years ago.
“You couldn’t have a discussion or hold a normal conversation with him,” al-Dulaimi told Expressen. “In the evening, when he came home, we would usually eat dinner together. He just asked about things and told me to fetch things. He gave orders, nothing more.”
Al-Dulaimi said she was married to Baghdadi briefly in 2008, before he became the leader of the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). The couple had one daughter together.
She comes from a “conservative, upper class family” in Baghdad, according to Expressen.
Al-Dulaimi said she was first married to another man, but he died fighting American troops in Iraq. A relative told her father that Baghdadi, whose name at the time was Hisham Mohammad, was looking to take a widow as a second wife. Al-Dulaimi and Baghdadi were soon married.
At the time, Baghdadi was lecturing at an Iraqi university.
“He didn’t say much about his background,” al-Dulaimi told Expressen. “He was mysterious. He wasn’t very talkative. We met in the evenings, over dinner. He spent his days at the university, where he taught religion and Sharia. He would sometimes disappear for several days. He said he’d been to visit his brother.”
She said Baghdadi took good care of her children from her previous marriage.
“He loved the children,” al-Dulaimi said. “He was their idol. He was an excellent person in that respect, but my relationship with him was shallow.”
Al-Dulaimi left after three months of marriage because Baghdadi’s first wife was not happy that he had married another woman, she told Expressen.
“Yes, you could say that I fled from him,” al-Dulaimi said. “It had nothing to do with him as a person. I wasn’t happy. It was unfair on his first wife. She was very upset. That’s why I left.”
She later found out whom she was married to when authorities in Lebanon, where al-Dulaimi fled to years after she left Baghdadi, showed her a picture.
Al-Dulaimi told Expressen:
It was when I got to Lebanon that I received the shocking news. They showed me pictures of my ex-husband and asked me if I recognised him. 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. I smashed a window in anger.
Al-Dulaimi said she hopes to one day move to a Western country, which might be difficult for her as the ex-wife of a terrorist. But she said she wasn’t aware of Baghdadi’s extremism while they were married.
Where is my guilt? I was married to him in 2008. We’re divorced now. I was the one who left him. I’m a woman who has been through a lot and who has suffered in prison. If I wanted to live with al-Baghdadi, I could have lived like a princess. I don’t want money. I want to live in freedom.
Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014. He was raised in a lower-middle-class family that had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
He went to graduate school and earned a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. Baghdadi had previously been a member of Al Qaeda and became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.
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