Table of Contents
The Harsh Reality
Chapter One: The Defector – Part One
Chapter Two: Best Friends, Big Dreams
Chapter Three: Callie
Chapter Four: Hasnaa
Chapter Five: Tariq
Chapter Six: The Beach
Chapter Seven: Take Off
Chapter Eight: Off to The Future
Chapter Nine: I was going to be a star
Chapter Ten: Welcome Home
Chapter Eleven: The One Good Day
Chapter Twelve: To Disobey
Chapter Thirteen: “Help”
Chapter Fourteen: The Plan
Chapter Fifteen: It’s Time
Chapter Sixteen: Time’s Up
Chapter Seventeen: The Reality
Chapter Eighteen: No Escape
Chapter Nineteen: The Defector – Part Two
The Harsh Reality
By Mackenzie Stark
This is a work of fiction. Aside from any quotes or sourced items, names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 DeckersPress
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published by DeckersPress
Chapter One: The Defector – Part One
“Every week, five more people from the UK alone join ISIS, a British police commissioner said Tuesday. And that’s a conservative estimate.”
The lights are low and she is sitting, facing forward, in shadow. Her voice has been altered but it’s clear the person is a female.
When the reporter received the USB, he had no idea what he would find.
As the video begins, a young woman speaks, “I am here to tell a story. I am an American citizen. I am 20 years old. I ran to ISIS like so many, but unlike most, I was able to escape. This story is real.” The video fades to black.
When the video picture comes back it is being filmed from an angle, still dark and still in shadow, “I saw the dream of becoming a jihadist bride. And I need to be clear, I wanted to go.
When they found me on social media, I found an unexpected kinship, and I found a dream. Something real to believe in. My parents didn’t seem to know much and there was too much confusion in the U.S.
I wanted to go forward be something more, and so I went.
After traveling through Turkey and upon my arrival, I was put with a man and married that same night. It was all still fine. To me, joining ISIS was an opportunity for Islam and an actual civilization. The U.S. was only out to dismantle all that it was, and I did not feel my life at home was the best it could be.”
The young woman takes a small break and although she was blacked out, you could see her wipe tears from her face. After a short bit, she regains her composure and continues.
“I was 18 and it was what I wanted. To me, it was worldly and romantic. I was told I would have a nice house and a car, with servants to help me. But the dream was not what I thought. I was groomed to think different and act different, mentally, physically, and even sexually. I was isolated and alone, and a slave.
In the end…it was all just a lie.”
Chapter Two: Best Friends, Big Dreams
“I so can’t wait for this year to be over. This is going to be the best summer ever!” Callie says to Hasnaa. The two are on their way to school. Like all the kids their age, the school year is coming to an end and the two girls are excited to be out and off to summer. For these two though, their plans are bigger than going to the lake, seeing late night movies or sneaking out to parties. When school’s out for summer, these two are out for good.
“I know,” says Hasnaa, “I’m so excited I can’t stand it!”
The two are all giggles as Hasnaa pulls up to school. “Yea, well, last day,” she says, “WE know so much more than any of these people. Let’s just get through the day and you can come over after school, sound good?”
Just then, Callie gets a text. It’s her mother.
Callie dear, I just wanted to remind you that Nana and Pappy are coming over for dinner tonight. I know you have a big day at school, but I just wanted to remind you. Love you!
“Ugh,” Callie shows the text to Hasnaa and then writes back.
Sounds good mom! Can’t wait! Love you too!
“Parents,” Callie looks to Hasnaa, “she’s sweet really. I just need more out of life, you know? America’s gone to shit and I’m looking forward to a new life, with a new group, and a new religion. I’m looking forward to a new life that actually means something!” She smiles to herself.
“Look, your parents are just a clueless as mine. And yes, this new life will set us free! I’d rather be with those changing the world than not, right?” Hasnaa parks her Honda, “Ugh, school…let’s just get this over with.” She and Callie reluctantly get out. It will be their last day as juniors.
Chapter Three: Callie
Callie was the kind of student who studied hard and her specialty was computers. She excelled in the subject and to her parents, was on the cutting edge of the future. They couldn’t be more proud. Unfortunately for them and even more, Callie, this pride led to an over-giving of trust, which led to distance. They trusted Callie and since she did well, sometimes felt more like being the cool parents, than actually parent.
Callie played volleyball in high school and in a club, with the goal of achieving a scholarship to college. Her game travels over the last few years took her to places in the U.S. that she would never have gotten to see without it, and there was no doubt that she got bit by the travel bug. She couldn’t get enough, and she wanted more!
She was athletic, smart, and social. She held a perfect image in school as well as on things like Snapchat and Instagram, where she had over 1,000 “friends”. Her dream was to make it big, be remembered, and make a difference.
Everything seemed to be moving along fine until the homecoming dance last year. To this day, her parents will tell you that was the beginning of the end, but no one can know for sure. It was Phil Stateman, jock extraordinaire, who asked her to the dance, and Callie was thrilled to say yes. He cancelled though for “someone more mature” he said, and left Callie humiliated. He took Marisa Harrington instead.
Callie did not go to the dance and instead turned inward and somewhere in her studies, sports, and limited social life, she formed an unlikely friendship with Hasnaa Dar. Hasnaa’s family was from Pakistan and immigrated when she was only four years old. As of late, it seemed to her parents that their daughter’s new good friend Hasnaa was actually helping with Callie’s return to normalcy.
Her grades were back up, and she was playing volleyball harder than ever. Her interest and worry over boys seemed to disappear and all was, once again, well with the world. What they didn’t know was that the young girl’s friendship was nothing more than a dangerous a contagion. They also didn’t know that Callie and Hasnaa’s friendship started to mean more to Callie than her own family.
Chapter Four: Hasnaa
“You can’t hang out for even an hour?” The school bell rings and Hasnaa pushes Callie to hang out.
“Can’t. You know how my parents are!” Callie looks to her friend, “My parents are BIG on family and my grandma did get me my new laptop this year. I absolutely have to be home. Besides, my mom is making lasagna and that is something I cannot pass up!”
“I guess so,” Hasnaa says, “well, don’t forget, I’m breaking at 9:30 and we can chat then, right? You can tell me about your lasagna, and I can tell you all about all the Pakistani rice at my dad’s restaurant!” She winks, giving Callie her best attempt at humor.
“Sounds great! I’ll be there! Unless of course, I get sucked into yet another night of Monopoly!”
“Callie!” Hasnaa calls out, “You do know how serious this is, right? I mean, a plan is a plan!”
Callie responds, “Oh no, I know! But, I can still enjoy my family for a little while can’t I? I mean, just because I have my plans doesn’t mean I need to ruin every last day with them, does it?
“No, I guess not,” Hasnaa tells her, “Sorry, I’m just excited.”
“Me too!” Callie calls out, “Me too! It’s going to be fine!”
When they get to Callie’s house her mom is outside and starts approaching the car.
“Oh brother,” Hasnaa looks to Callie, “why do parents always want to say hi?”
“It’s fine. Roll down your window and say hello. She’ll love it!” Callie says, as she waves to her mom.
“Hello girls! How was the LAST day?” Callie’s mom calls, “Hi Hasnaa! Congratulations on another great year! I can’t believe you are going to be seniors!”
“Thank you Mrs. Walker,” Hasnaa acknowledges the congrats while Callie gets out of the car.
With Callie now standing next to her mother, Hasnaa waves goodbye to her friend, “Have a great night!”
“Yep,” says Callie, “Talk to you later!”
Hasnaa drives away, leaving Callie to her night and heads home to her own obligations, and for Hasnaa that doesn’t include a family dinner or board games.
Her parents didn’t seem to have any desire to acknowledge the last day of school as anything significant. Instead, they actually saw the American tradition of summer as something lazy and lacking dignity.
Unlike what Callie was walking into, there would be no congratulations or celebration. She would have a few hours after school to herself and then would be off to work in her dad’s Pakistani restaurant. She was both food prep and server, and then was in charge of cleaning and closing up for the night. This was her Friday night routine and had been for the last four years. Her father used to stay late with her to help, but now that she had her license she was on her own.
Hasnaa and Callie’s friendship blossomed after the whole homecoming debacle, and Hasnaa welcomed it. She admired Callie. She had it all. She seemed to be living the American dream with parents that loved her, she had college options, boyfriend options, love, respect, and a sense of freedom. This was all a life that Hasnaa did not know, and any hopes of her finding that life in America were long gone. Her upbringing and home life were different from Callie’s, and pretty much everyone else’s at their school.
Hasnaa’s family was strict, and not so affectionate. They meant well but without assimilation, became outsiders. There were expectations in her family, not goals. There were rules and boundaries, not hugs and attention. The admiration for other young American children grew into hate and anger over the years. Her feelings weren’t focused on one person or group in particular exactly, she simply felt a strong resentment towards the conflicting life that had been forced upon her.
“This is America?” Hasnaa yells out, slamming her hand into the steering wheel as she drives. “Land of opportunity? What a crock!” Hasnaa passed that dream a long time ago. She was now a teenager left only with a path laid out for her since their arrival onto American soil. There was no dream about it. Her parents weren’t American, not really, and they basically relied on her for all things that were. She paid their bills, made phone calls, translated for them, and worked for them. She was isolated and restricted, and she wanted out.
Chapter Five: Tariq
Callie finished up lasagna two hours ago, and the Monopoly never happened. Instead, the family sat around reminiscing about old times and discussing future plans. Through all the laughing and chatting, she made a conscious effort to have personal time with her grandparents since she knew it would most likely be the last time she ever saw them.
Hasnaa’s night kept her on the run. Running to the kitchen, running to tables, and running after the bus boy. She was scrambling, but determined to make her 9:30 chat. This meeting meant she was closer to a new freedom, and a new life. The restaurant closed at nine and this meeting took precedence over any dishes or condiment cleanup. She was in her car and ready on her laptop at 9:30 on the dot.
She pulls her laptop out from under her seat and logs into her expected chat.
[Tariq] hello ladies! how are we this fine evening?
[Cal-girl] hello friend! So good to hear from you! It’s been a great night, last day of school…
[Naaz] hey guys! I’m here! yes, no more school! no more school!
[Tariq] did you guys get what I asked you to? will you be ready? there are soo many people that can’t wait to meet you. I have it all set!
[Cal-girl] me too!
[Tariq] that’s great. be excited! you will not regret it! See you tomorrow at 10!
The chat went on for a half hour. Plans being made, telling jokes and building excitement between them. The online friendship was unexpected, but for both girls, they felt close to Tariq, and they trusted him. For Hasnaa, their plans couldn’t come fast enough and for Callie, she left the chat with a racing heart. She compared the excited fear that beat through her to entering the biggest volleyball tournament yet, and she couldn’t wait!
Chapter Six: The Beach
Summer has arrived. No big surprise that Callie would be packing up to head to the beach. It was Saturday morning, and she was home with her mother while her dad was dropping her brother off at a football camp at the local college.
“What is it Callie, why are you yelling?” her mom races out of the kitchen.
“Oh, hi. Sorry, it’s just that I really wanted to see you before I leave,” Callie says. She’s holding back a few tears but also beaming with excitement.
“Well, okay. You’re just heading down to West Lake, right? You always go there first, I know that sweetheart!” Her mom replies, not sure if she should be concerned but more than willing to take in the extra attention from her only daughter.
“I know, I know…and I am. It’s just that…it’s the first day out, and…I don’t know, I wanted to see you before I left,” Callie tells her.
“Okay, well, have a great time! You meeting Hasnaa there? She’s such a nice girl.” Her mom asks with a smile.
“I am,” Callie stops for a moment, “but mom, you know I love you right? My grades were good this year, and you know I’m gonna do great things, right?”
“I couldn’t be more proud dear,” her mom gives her a hug, “now go. Just go have fun! Your summer job doesn’t start for another week so take the time and just relax!”
“Okay…bye mom,” Callie looks up to her mother.
“Bye-bye! Have a good time! Just have the car back by six!” She waves her daughter off and heads back to the kitchen.
Callie walks out the front door with a lump in her throat, but she also feels invigorated at the chance for a new life. A better life.[_ It’s going to be great_], she tells herself.
She opens up the trunk and throws her beach bag on top of a small suitcase she packed and snuck out to the car in the middle of the night. She looks back up to her house and a few thoughts cross her mind. [_Will dad ever fix that gate? Will my brother make it to film school? Bye mom. _]
She opens up her purse to make one last check that she has what she needs. She found her passport, which she stole from her mother’s desk, and a one-way ticket to Turkey sent by Tariq. From there, she knew the plan was to be driven to an ISIS-controlled region in Syria. She would be married and used as an ISIS model, and her computer skills would be put to work!
Without thinking about it again she puts her purse over her shoulder and slams the trunk shut.
Chapter Seven: Take Off
Callie got to the beach and knew what to do. She was to park close, but not too close. She put on a sweater, even though it was already 85 degrees out, with sunglasses and a hat. Hiding behind her disguise she carefully unpacked the trunk and set her things aside. She stood there for a moment taking in the fact that this was really and truly happening, and she was about to leave.
She pulls a photo out of her purse. It’s a picture of her family last Christmas. She goes back to the front of the car and sets the photo on the front seat. She kisses her fingers and transfers it to the photo before locking up. Then, like she was told, she throws the car keys into the bushes next to the parking lot. As they disappear into the brush Callie lets out a long sigh and a tear escapes her left eye, making its way down her cheek.
Out of nowhere, Hasnaa is suddenly standing behind her, “Hey, you ready?”
Callie wipes the one tear and turns around, “Of course I am!” She smiles, “let’s get this party started!”
The two girls each have one piece of luggage, as they were directed, and they wheel their belongings down the dock. Waiting for them is a man in a light blue malibu wakesetter. He has dark glasses and a dark hat. He is wearing a gray t-shirt, white shorts and flip-flops.
The girls reach him, bubbling with excitement, and he immediately takes their bags and swiftly gets them into the boat.
He looks like Tariq, but Callie wants to be sure. He told them what he looked like but online, his picture is of a kitten, “Tariq?” she asks with a smile and offers her hand to greet him.
“We must go!” Is all the young man says.
The minute the girls take their seats the boat leaves the dock and speeds across the lake. Holding their hats against the wind, Callie and Hasnaa sit in the back of the boat and don’t say a word. The boat comes to a stop in the middle of the lake, and the man gets up to speak.
“I am Tariq!” He flashes them a friendly grin to put their minds at ease, “Sorry about before, we just have to move fast, you know?” His Syrian accent is heavy. “Now, let’s see your bags,” he says.
“What?” Callie asks.
“Open the bags!” He barks, but follows his order up with another smile, “No, I am sorry, we are moving fast. But you see, we must. You know this, yes? There are so many people excited to meet you! We can’t delay.” He reaches his hand out to accept Callie’s offer of an introduction.
“Oh, I see, yes!” Callie is immediately feeling better. Hasnaa and her exchange a smile and open up their bags. They are sure he wants to check to see if they brought everything they would need.
They are shocked however when Tariq throws Callie’s blow dryer over the edge of the boat. He takes their toiletries, razors, lace panties, and shoes, and does the same.
“Good,” he says, “now we go.”
Again, the girls are shocked into silence. They ride to a remote bay on the other side of the lake. When they arrive, there are two other men waiting for them. The two strangers take their bags and throw them into a white van. They come back for the girls and escort them into the same white van. Callie and Hasnaa only get one more glimpse of Tariq before the back doors are slammed shut. His real name is Sahib, and they will not see him again.
The white van takes off, and the light blue malibu exits the bay, heading back across the lake. This would be the last time Callie and Hasnaa would ever be seen again, by anyone, as the young and eager American teenage girls that they once were.
Chapter Eight: Off to The Future
At first, the girls don’t know what to do and a small bit of fear shakes through them. There is one young man up front driving and the other remains in the back.
“Okay,” the man in the back says, “I know, I know…rush, rush, rush! So sorry.” He shakes his hands as if shaking it all off. He then takes off his hat and sunglasses. He looks friendly and has a big smile.
“It’s okay,” he says, “I am a soldier.” He shows them a badge and then starts in with some flirting and reassurance, “You are beautiful. I am going too. I am just like you. We will change the world.”
He seems friendly enough. And both Callie and Hasnaa know they are leaving without their parent’s knowledge or approval and use that to justify the strange behavior and travel. They decide to stay calm and settle in for the long trek to their new world. Their fantasies of a great life abroad, being different, and doing something big, gives them a thrill that replaces any small regrets they might have had.
On their drive to the airport the three pass the time with small talk of lame school systems and bad U.S. government, all of which only further reinforces their decision to leave.
In between conversations Callie’s thoughts wander. If you want something, you just have to go for it! I’m not timid, and I am not afraid. I’ve learned enough here, and it’s time to do what’s right for ME! Callie is excited to meet someone real, and be a wife. Her career will flourish, and she will be somebody.
Hasnaa has kept her reservations at bay, although the morning’s bad moments were less than comfortable. During the drive, her thoughts wander as well. I will fight, if given the chance. I would rather die fighting for what’s right in this world than sit here and do nothing! Be nothing! No thank you! She is looking forward to taking control and getting back at the life that took so much from her already. Her decision is solid.
Callie takes hold of Hasnaa’s hand and the two squeeze tight, sharing in their anticipation and belief that their new lives will be worth it.
Chapter Nine: I was going to be a star
New York Times:
“As it turned out, it was also the carefully choreographed goodbye of a determined and exceptionally bright teenager who had spent months methodically planning to leave her childhood home in Bethnal Green, East London, with two schoolmates and follow the path of another friend who had already traveled to the territory controlled by the Islamic State.”
Travel was long but at the same time, went by fast. Now in Syria, they found themselves with a half dozen other young women who were all grouped by age and possibilities soon after arrival. Hasnaa and Callie were separated immediately. Callie’s blond hair put her in a small group of girls with the same. She was forced into full body coverings, including gloves and socks. She was given the new name of Izzah and told she would no longer be known as Callie. That surprised her at first but she talked herself into how mysterious it sounded and vowed to maintain her excitement. It was a new life, so new name it is!
But, there was nothing exciting or mysterious about it ,unfortunately. From day one, she was forced to sleep on a dirt floor in a hot metal building. The group of girls were allowed one meal a day and were intimated over and over again to convert. Without conversion, they were told they would not get out.
At first, Callie wanted to say whatever they wanted so she could get out of there. She was not supposed to be detained. Tariq was clear that she was to be married and famous, and this was anything but that. She wanted to talk to someone about the confusion, but the other young women in her group urged her to refrain. They were terrified and told her she would be punished. She didn’t want to believe that but did give in, and she waited. With every day, her dreams of celebrity status and becoming a jihadist bride were slowly being replaced with a desire to go home. It was all starting to feel more and more like the fantasy it was.
During her stay there the girls were forced to work in a field. They worked outside all day and stayed in their tin box every night. They were whipped if they did not wear their clothing correctly. Men would spend hours preaching to them while they worked, telling them they were pagans and to convert, not to mention threats of death. Callie wanted to be her in her American clothes and sunglasses, not a heavy “robe” and headscarf.
Callie could also feel herself fading. She was an athlete! She was losing too much weight, and her muscles were shrinking and getting weak. Her hair was in knots, as was her stomach, and she wanted her family, and she wanted to go home. On the 25th day, it all became too much.
She fell to the floor at the foot of a sweaty, heavy soldier. She wanted out and begged to be taken away, at any cost. The soldier half lifted, and half dragged Callie across the field and into a small building. It was cooler in there and they gave her a glass of water. They were also smiling and laughing. Callie didn’t know whether she was now in serious trouble or if she would finally get what was promised to her. In her fragile state, she decided to go with the latter.
She smiled back and adjusted her clothing to make sure it was all on correctly. She sat up straight and took in the smirks and gestures. All talk stopped though when an overweight, hairy stranger entered the room. Within minutes, she was handed over to him. There was more talk between the men and there were a few words Callie could now understand. It didn’t take long for her realize that the man was soon to be her husband. Hungry, tired and terrified, she did nothing, and said nothing.
This new man took her by the arm, stood her up and forcefully walked her out to his truck. As they drove, the man spoke loud and with an angry voice, but Callie did not know what he was saying. They passed a house that looked like a palace. She had a small, hopeful thought that maybe this was the end, and that was to be her real prize. Maybe this man wasn’t to be her husband, and he was just driving her! Tariq promised! _]Callie told herself. [_It was all set! I was going to be married, successful, and a star! Surely, this beast of a man next to her was just taking her to the real man she would marry. She held onto that thought with all the energy she had left.
That was not the case; however, and the reality became more clear as they passed by the palace. It was all a mistake. She had nothing of her own now. No phone, no friends, no family, no computer…she was stuck.
As they went on, Callie was able to figure out that the man’s name was Akram. When they finally reached what she guessed was her new home, Callie felt like throwing up. It wasn’t a home. It was more like a hut or a cave, and she didn’t want to go in. She wanted to [_back! _] But, Akram would have nothing to do with her hesitation. He got her out of the truck and took her inside. He then directed her to remove the items covering her appearance. He looked her up and down and walked around her with a grin on his face and a hungry laugh behind his beard.
Yep, Akram was satisfied with his soon-to-be bride. So satisfied that he tied her up and proceeded to rape her. He raped her five times that day, and fed her once before he laid himself to rest. Callie was left in the corner. She was tied to a stake, half naked and given a small pillow and a blanket that she assumed was to be her mattress. Taking one more small look around the room, she closed her eyes and passed out within seconds.
They were married the next day.
Chapter Ten: Welcome Home
On that first day and after they tied the knot, Callie felt the dead weights on her. She knew that no matter the pain or humiliation, she was stuck. Her friend Hasnaa was gone, all her friends were gone. Her family was gone, and she missed her mother. Her only goal now was to stay alive, and maybe someday, escape. With that came the resignation that for now, she was to be a slave to her militant husband, in all ways asked of her, and Akram did not waste any time making the rules clear.
She was forbidden to leave the house without him. She could be outside only to tend to their small crop of wheat and barley, as well as the small bit of cattle Akram had kept there. She was to be covered at all times, unless inside their cave and when she was inside, she knew her place was in the corner, unless cooking, cleaning, or doing his laundry.
The laundry consisted of a home system he made out of metal buckets and a board. The meals she would prepare would include very dense foods with rice as a staple, and they would eat meat no more than twice a week. Much to Callie’s surprise, Akram also liked soda and cake. The soda he would bring home but the cake she had to learn to cook to perfection.
She did as she was told and before too long, her chores earn her two meals a day.
Over time, Callie lost track of days and instead only needed to worry about her duties and the time of day. She had many chores. There was the clothing that Akram brought home to wash everyday, there could be no weeds on their crop land, the prayer rugs were to remain spotless, and the cattle fed, to name a few.
On top her chores, she was to commit to the prayer ritual. This included prayer, five times a day, even if her husband was not at home she is to pray before sunrise, early afternoon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and then again later at night. At first, Callie did not take it too seriously. If Akram was gone, and when behind closed doors alone, she ignored the demand. She refused to convert and tried only to remember the prayers taught to her on Sundays when her parents dragged her into church.
Paranoia started to kick in though, and she gained a healthy fear that people were watching her, and it didn’t seem to take too long before she came to practice Islamic prayer dutifully and religiously, every single day.
Chapter Eleven: The One Good Day
Her husband left every morning and there were no days off, and today started out like any other day. She got up when he got up and prepared his breakfast made up of rice, fruit and his favorite drink, Sharabit. Callie yearned for a cold diet coke from a fountain but nowadays the sweet fruit drink was a treat, when Akram allowed her to have one. Today was one of those days.
After he left that morning, Callie found herself feeling pretty good! She had good days before but today seemed different. There was a small skip in her step and she was moving a little bit faster. She thought to herself how she was doing a good job. She knew it because she was being treated a little bit better. The second meals were offered more and more, and now the drink this morning was also a positive. Lately, he also invited her to sleep with him a few times on the actual bed, which felt much better than the floor.
I’m earning my keep! My husband’s starting to be good to me! She was pleased. Of course Callie didn’t know what it all meant but things sure felt better than the first day. She said her morning prayers but before cleaning the breakfast dishes and starting laundry, she decided she would work in the field first so as to avoid some of the afternoon heat.
A song came into her head as she hiked out to the crop to do her weeding and plant checks,
“So come on give me a taste…”
Selena Gomez was one of Callie’s favorites back home and although it was a bit harder to remember the words at this point, today she felt good enough to try. She even opens her headscarf to enjoy a little of the sun and feel the light breeze blowing across the field.
“Hm, hm, hmmm…Cause all of the downs and the uppers…”
She’s plucking weeds and feeling content when, “You!” A strong woman’s voice screams out in English from behind her.
Callie and Akram live in the middle of nowhere, or so Callie thought, and the call startles her. She has seen no one but Akram since she arrived. She sets down her basket and takes in a deep breath. She is on her knees but slowly tries to turn around, staying low to the ground. She sees five women standing about 15 feet away, at the edge of the small field. Who in the world?
They are all in all black and fully covered, and each has a gun. The one in the middle yells again, “What are you doing?” She seems to be the leader of the group.
“I-I..I am weeding the field,” Callie says. She knows immediately that these are not friendly visitors and starts to adjust her headscarf to cover her face.
“What is your name?”
Callie doesn’t want to say, but knows she has to, and she almost says Callie but stops herself, “Izzah.”
The leader nods to one of the women to her right and in almost an instant the women is in a full run and rushes Callie. She takes Callie’s basket and throws it out farther into the field and the weeds she had picked go flying. She grabs Callie’s hair through her headscarf and pulls her to her feet. Callie cries out but it’s as if they do not hear her. The woman pushes her forward and yells out, “Go!”
Callie does as she is told and walks, or more like stumbles, in a hurry to where the other women are.
“Kneel!” the leader tells her. Callie drops to the ground in front of her.
The woman rips off Callie’s head scarf and wraps it around her neck. The woman from the field catches up to the group and grabs the scarf from behind, tying it tight around Callie’s neck, and holding her there.
“Do you think this is America little girl?” the leader asks Callie. “You think the rules don’t apply to you? You are a disgrace to us all and most of all to your husband who is out hard at work for you!”
“No!” Callie says, knowing that her face showing was the problem, and figuring her singing didn’t help, “It was…the wind!” Callie thinks quick and tries to save herself. Akram did tell her to cover herself whenever out but she thought she was alone, “The wind blew it off of my face! I am so sorry!” She bows her head. It’s the only other thing she knows besides kneeling and begging to show she is at their mercy.
The woman doesn’t care about her apologies and pulls a metal stick out from under her robe. When Callie lifts her head to see if her apology would be accepted, her face is met with the stick. The woman slams it into the right side of her face and then the left. A loud boom echoes through Callie’s skull and the pain in her jaw is immense.
“You WILL obey!” She slams the metal stick into Callie one more time. This one hits her in the back and she crumples to the ground.
The leader then yells out something in Syrian and another one of the group pulls out another tool out from under her robe. It looks like two arms, each with teeth on the end. Two other woman lift the covering on Callie’s left arm, and grab on. They extend her arm out with firm holds, one at the elbow and the other at the wrist.
The one with the teeth approaches her next. The metal arms are put on either side of Callie’s forearm. She tries to struggle but then two more of the women grab her by her right side, and hold her arm and legs. She is no longer able to move.
In Callie’s panic she looks from one woman to the other, landing on the leader. The monster of a woman chants a few things and then screams out into the wind and across the crop. When she is done she looks down on Callie and then slams the metal arms shut. The teeth pierce her flesh and she can feel it down to the bone.
“The Biter” is a common tool for the morality police, although Callie has no idea what that is or who the morality police even are. The pain from the bite is the last thing Callie feels before she passes out.
She is left there, in front of the field, curled up and lying in the dirt. Her face is bleeding, as is her arm. Her headscarf was left tied up snug around her neck and her face was left for all to see. No one will mess with her now. The marks of the morality police say it all and there is nothing else for anyone to do.
Except Akram that is.
Chapter Twelve: To Disobey
She is awakened to Akram putting his cigarette out on her shoulder, on the same arm as the bit. Out of shock and pain she squeezed her eyes shut. Her face hurts to much to speak and she doesn’t make a sound. Her head is pounding and she can’t see him very clearly.
He however, did start speaking, and very loudly. He also lit up another smoke. He took a large breath in and crouched down, putting his face by hers.
He exhaled the smoke into her face and with a slight grin, started to speak English, “You don’t feel pain, Izzah?”
Tears start to flow even though Callie was trying with all her might to hold them back.
“Huh? No pain?” Akram took his cigarette from his mouth and pressed it to her arm, this time by her elbow. Callie raises her head and this time, she couldn’t hold back the screams with her tears.
“Please,” She begs, “Please stop…I will do what you want.” She can barely get the words out.
Her pleas do nothing and Akram drags her inside.
The headache is killing her. Her face is killing her. And all she hears is yelling. It’s Akram but there are also a couple of other men there. She can only understand a few words. She hears “American”, she hears “disobey”, and she knows she is in a lot of trouble.
She is tied up again, but this time sitting up. She pulls up her head scarf to cover her face and can barely see out of the slits by her eyes. She hasn’t eaten since her breakfast and her stomach aches, and she needs water, but she knows asking for anything right now could be a major problem.
Akram leans down close to her face. Feeling his hot breath anywhere near her, repulses her, on top of the fact that she knows it means things are really bad. While he is screaming in her face, the two other men move from across the room and take a stance on either side of her.
Her husband stops. The other two men are smiling and move in just a bit closer while he steps back. He’s mumbling and growling under his breath. His hands are flailing around his head and as he mumbles, spit is spurting from his mouth. Is he leaving me? What happens now?
Callie’s bad feeling multiplies by what feels like a million, and panic starts up again. She starts pulling and tugging at her ties, but they are too tight, and she can’t squirm enough to make even the slightest difference in their hold. One of the strangers bends down by her next. He reaches up to her face and feels her cheek through her headscarf. Her face is bruised and even the slightest touch aches. At the same time, she can see that Akram is walking out of their front door.
“No!” Callie tries to scream, “Wait! Akram! It’s not what they said it was, whoever they were! I would never disrespect you!” There is nothing, but silence, and the man is still crouched down and hovering over her.
She gives it one more try, “Please! Come back!” She is worn out, tired and beaten, and is losing strength, “Please…”
“You say disrespect?” the man starts out, “You disrespect Akram, you disrespect us all. And now you must pay.” He removes her headscarf and then tells her, “Maybe now you will learn the way. Maybe now you will learn your lesson.”
Callie starts to cry, but not many tears come out. After the man removes her headscarf, he proceeds to remove the rest of her cover. Underneath she is only wearing her undergarments. She felt good that morning and didn’t feel the need to protect herself with more clothing. It was hot out and besides, the only other clothes she had besides coverings, were her old clothes, and they were wearing out.
She looks around the room while being undressed, trying to take in anything other than what was actually happening to her. She sees the dirty dishes from breakfast off to the side. She also see’s Akram’s clothing from the day before, unwashed. One of the prayer rugs has sand on it, and his bed is unmade. Callie is a smart girl. She knows she has been given to these men as punishment. No one needs to tell her, she just knows.
Part of her wonders if this will be the better side of the punishment her husband will give her later. But rape is wrong! She knows that. She doesn’t want to be raped. But then, in her haze and confusion of it all, she can’t help but also wonder if she deserves what she is about to get. She did break the rules. That fact she could even think that surprises her and scares her. She can feel her sense of American beliefs are beginning to fade.
The man lays Callie out on the floor. She is not on a mat or blanket, and her hands are re-tied so they are now above her head. Her bra is carefully removed, and her underwear is slid off slowly. The man runs his finger down her front side and feels her where she is rarely touched. She feels lightheaded and overwhelmed.
It started out slow and then got more violent with every minute. One man, and then the other, and then the first man again. In the end, Callie could barely breathe or think. The men just went about their way. When they were done with her, they dressed and and then left, laughing and talking the entire time.
The memories of the incident later that evening are dim. She is bleeding with no way of cleaning up. Akram returned to find her on the floor, and a mess. He kicks her in the stomach and throws her a towel. He unties her and then throws the dirty dishes at her, and his dirty clothing. He kicks her robe and coverings to her, “Dress!”
He does bring her a glass of water to drink but that is all. She is starving and feels sick but gets dressed and doesn’t move from her spot. The lights go out, and all she hears is Akram’s heavy groan as he falls off to sleep.
Callie needs to use the bathroom. She is dirty and is hurting, inside and out. Her happier thoughts from earlier that day are gone. She wants to go home, and her heart hurts for her family. She feels defeated, and at the same time feels guilty for disobeying the rules and disrespecting her husband. The confusion and emotion are too much. There is nothing she can do but force herself to sleep.
Chapter Thirteen: “Help”
The pounding of her head and the burning in her abdomen wake Callie up the next morning. She has sand on her bleeding face, and her eyes are stinging. She jerks and opens her eyes when she feels someone touch the wound on her forearm.
“Okay,” a woman says, “we will clean you up.”
At first, when Callie hears a woman’s voice, she is terrified that the monsters in black are back. She pulls away but then sees that the woman in front of her has a pink headscarf. She can’t see her face of course, but it appears she could be more friendly. She looks past her and sees another woman, dressed all in black.
“I’m Aalaa,” the woman in pink says, “this is Yakta.”
Callie doesn’t know what to do so she timidly introduces herself, “K…Izzah.”
“You are lucky this morning, and unlucky,” Aalaa tells her, “Akram said we could help you, but your punishment will be long. He wants you well so that you can work.”
Yakta comes over with a pan of water and some towels. The three spend the next couple of hours cleaning up Callie’s cuts, taking her to the bathroom and cleaning her body. They wash her long hair and braid it down her back. They wash her clothing and then set it in the sun. The two women surprisingly also take to the home chores. They clean the dishes and make Akram’s bed. They even wash his clothes. They work until the home and Callie are “clean”.
Yakta heads outside and when she comes back she has Callie’s weeding basket, “This is for you. You must finish what you started and be ready for your husband when he comes home.”
“What is he going to do?” Callie asks. “I want to do a good job!” The minute the words come out of her mouth, Callie is shaking her head and under her breath says, “I want to go home!” She breaks down in tears.
Yakta hears her and reaches out, and gives her a hug. Callie melts. She has not had a gentle hug or touch in months, or has it been a year? She doesn’t know. She has only worked, and been used. The soft touch and small sense of security from the woman’s arms around her makes her want to go home even more.
“You cannot go home! This is your home!” Aalaa tells her, interrupting the only actual moment Callie has had since she arrived. “You must obey. It is the way. We can help you, but you must work.”
Aalaa then picks up the prayer rugs and takes them outside to shake and clean them. When she is gone, Yakta talks, “Listen to me. Do you really want out?”
Callie doesn’t know what to say. Is this a trick? She waits a minute and then says, “Yes.”
“We have a small group. Some like you and some like me. My husband was killed, and I am to be married again, but I too want to go. Syria is my home, but not like this. You don’t belong here.”
“Wha-what do we do? What do I do?” Callie asks. Her heartbeat quickens at the thought of a chance to get out.
“This could take a while, or if we get the chance, we have to move fast.” Yakta leans in closer to Callie, “Because you are hurt and Akram wants you well, we can come back, only a few more times. While I am away, you work. Work hard.”
Aalaa busts back in with the rugs, “Okay, our work is done here,” she hands Callie her basket, “now you go. Finish.”
Overwhelmed and still in a lot of pain, Callie gets up. She is clean and does feel a small bit better. Basket in hand and fully covered, Callie heads out the door to the field. The women leave and Callie weeds and tends to the crops. They must be perfect for when Akram comes home.
It was the longest day of her life.
Chapter Fourteen: The Plan
If it were weeks or even another month, Callie wasn’t sure. She was still at one meal a day, no sweet drinks, and sleeping on the floor. Akram had his way with her whenever he saw fit, and he had beaten her a few times. She was forced to listen to the radio whenever Akram was out. She was learning the language and was actually able to somewhat understand the preaching that was being broadcast. To top off everything though, Callie was worried she was pregnant. She was extremely thin, but her abdomen felt swelled, and she hadn’t menstruated in a while.
Callie kept her focus on Yakta and Aalaa. They were her only connection outside of her home with Akram. The two women were coming for a visit the next morning and it was to be their fourth and final visit. After that, Callie was back to working and being on her own, for good. She felt anxious and nervous. Yakta told her they were close and that this next time, they might go. The thought of it fueled Callie with an excitement she hadn’t felt in a long time. Is this how good it felt to play volleyball? Callie can’t remember.
She used her nervous energy and took extra care in making sure her chores were extra perfect. She had worked hard and in some sick way, she wanted to leave knowing she had done things right, and done a good job. It was beat into her and told to her over and over again, and somehow she still had some pride. She went to sleep that night hoping and praying that tomorrow was the day. Anything else would be devastating. Should anything go wrong, Callie would forever regret letting herself have any hope at all.
Chapter Fifteen: It’s Time
Prayer and breakfast, and Akram was off. Callie began straightening things up immediately by doing the dishes and the rugs. She made the bed and scrubbed Akram’s clothing with a little extra attention. She had no plan of going to the field that day and instead, she sat down and waited. She tried to pray, the Christian way, but couldn’t remember full prayers so she just sat talking to herself and God until the women arrived.
“Good morning!” Aalaa says, “You look well!”
“Yes, thank you,” Callie responds, “you have been so much help. I feel good. I have been strong and working very hard.”
“I see!” Aalaa exclaims, “Yes, things are looking much better here. Akram says you are doing well and that would mean today is our last day.”
“Yes, I know,” Callie looks out a small window, “but will I get to see you again?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” is Aalaa’s response.
Yakta, who has been silent so far and keeping herself busy in the corner finally speaks up, “Callie, I have some ideas for you in the crop. Can I show you today?”
Yakta works in her own field and Aalaa thinks nothing of it and adds, “Yes, and I have some things to show you today too! Come.”
Aalaa has some laundry tips and shares a couple small things that will help earn her extra points with her husband. They go over things like the order of her chores, where to put his shoes, and how to present herself when he comes home everyday.
When the review of how to be a good wife is done, Aalaa sends her off with Yakta. Today, Callie wore her American clothes under her robe and is more than ready to go. It seems weird that those small items are all that she has to call her own, but they are, and she wants them.
“Don’t be gone long,” Aalaa says, “we aren’t staying all day today.”
“No,” says Yakta, “we won’t be long.”
Yakta leads Callie out and in the direction of the field, making sure they take the basket so as to not send up any red flags.
Entering the field, Yakta starts to explain things, “They are waiting for us.”
“Who?” Callie asks.
“People like us,” she says, “We have found smugglers. And we have a long journey.”
They are walking fast. Eventually Yakta drops the basket.
“Where are they?” Callie asks.
“At the end of the field. If we make it there, that’s just one. Then, we have several more barriers to break through. Aalaa will be looking for us soon enough.”
When they get to the end of the field they see a truck. The engine is running, and someone gets out and opens the back. Callie and Yakta start to run and to their relief, they make it.
Callie looks back, and there is no one there. I am leaving! She is ecstatic. I will make it! She turns to the truck and sees another woman, in the back, crouched down and shaking. Callie and Yakta jump in and the door is closed behind them. The truck revs up and they drive off in a hurry. They are told they have three more stops to make.
The last woman they pick up, also has a child. The woman is badly beaten and is missing some teeth.
“That’s the last,” Yakta tells Callie.
“Where do we go now?”
“You will see,” Yakta replies, “sleep now, we have a while to drive.”
Callie sees the women in the back with her, frightened and crying. Being happy to leave suddenly seems like a terrible idea. But, there is nothing else she can to. She HAS to try. She wants to get out and go home. There is no way she can sleep, and instead she is tense. She sits, with a blank stare, the entire drive.
When the truck comes to a stop, Callie would figure they drove for about two hours. It’s mid-afternoon. By now Aalaa knows that they are gone, and even though Callie doesn’t know exactly what that means. She wonders if Akram knows, she wonders if they are coming for her. She doesn’t feel safe and is now just as terrified as the rest of the group.
The back door opens, and the man waves them out. The women, and the child, climb out one-by-by, and Callie is last. She thought they would be at an actual location of some kind, but it all just looks the same. It’s open and dusty, and there is nothing there.
“Where are we?” Callie asks Yakta, “Are we where we are supposed to be?”
“Yes,” Yakta says.
“But,” Callie is confused, “Where is “here”, are we out? Where do we go?”
Yakta points West, “We go that way.”
“That way? Is the driver leaving?” Callie is watching as the driver unpacks backpacks.
“We walk,” Yakta explains, “and will take supplies.”
“Are we walking all the way to Turkey?” Even though she doesn’t know how far that is, the farthest she would walk at home was to the local shops and restaurants by her house.
“We will hopefully find a ride near Kilis, north of Aleppo.” Yakta grabs a backpack and urges Callie to do the same, “It will take us at least three days.”
Within minutes, the truck is leaving and the nine women and young boy are left in the desert. Each bag that was packed by the smuggler has a flashlight, rice, water, clothes for a disguise, and a blanket. They will save the clothes for later in case they cross a town, and have to be out, and they will eat when it gets dark.
There is nothing else to do but move forward and together, the small group heads out in the hot afternoon sun. None of them have eaten much that day, or any day, and they are weak and slow going.
When the sun is finally going down the group decides to stop. They need to eat, and get some rest. There is no way to track how far they have gone exactly. All they have is a map to go by, left to them by their driver. It shows them the path and certain landmarks, and tonight they are halfway to the first one.
They lay out their blankets, and each take in some of their cooked rice. It had to be cooked ahead of time so that they would not need to light a fire and call attention to themselves. It is getting chilly though, and so they decide they need to turn in. Lying on their blankets they use their robes as cover, and their packs as a pillow. No one is too restless to sleep at this point. They are exhausted and fall asleep within minutes.
Callie does look up to the stars before closing her eyes. There are so many. The world is too big. She’d much rather be at home where she can’t see any stars. After living in the middle of nowhere and now this, she could really do without them altogether. She never wants to feel this alone again. She needs to sleep and be as strong as she can for the next day of travel.
There is only moonlight and almost no trace they are there. It is dark, and there is only night sounds to accompany the silence.
Chapter Sixteen: Time’s Up
The lights are coming from all around them. The little boy is screaming. Callie was sleeping so hard she is one of the last to realize what is going on.
They are everywhere. It is an ambush. Callie is blinded by the lights and can’t see anyone else. She is jerked up by her arm and pulled across the dusty ground, and thrown into an old bus that is open on the top. Her hands are tied to a metal loop that is in front of her seat. The horror is almost too much and she’s hyperventilating. She can’t even cry because there is too much fear.
Everyone is loaded. No one had any chance of escape, it was too much of a surprise, and there were so many of them. The bus speeds off leaving a trail of dust behind them, along with Callie’s dream of going home. Her mind goes blank. She doesn’t know what to do. She is in a dull shock and feels nothing. She just stares forward as they drive into the unknown.
Chapter Seventeen: The Reality
They arrive at what looks like a prison, and that’s exactly what it is. When they get off the bus, again, they are separated, just like when Callie arrived for the first time. She is reliving a nightmare, and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to end. Her heart sinks, and her body is limp, she is thrown into a small metal room and the door is closed.
A small bit of light coming through the little barred window shows her there is one blanket on the ground and a glass of water and that is all aside from the small hole in the cement in the far corner. She knows what that is for.
Callie stands up and tries to see out the small window. She can only see across from her and she sees other rooms like hers, all in a row. Not only is she being held, she is an actual criminal. She went against the rules, and she tried to escape. Her body tingles with fear at the thought of what will happen next, and it doesn’t take long for her to find out.
She lies on the blanket and takes a sip of the water. She listens to the cries of the women being pulled in behind her. Some of the lights go down, and then he comes. He will be her first rapist of the evening, and she will have five. She is still numb with fear and shock, and doesn’t fight. She doesn’t do anything…it hurts less. She resolves to the fact that this will be her life, until Akram comes to get her. Will he come to get me or will I live here forever? She doesn’t know and she is so defeated at this point, she can barely think about it.
The next day she is put to work. All the women are taken out in the early hours. She saw one woman leave without her veil and all she saw next was that she was grabbed by a guard and then followed by another with pliers. The screams were heard by all as they lined up for their daily duties.
Callie was coming out of her trance and did talk to some of the other women.
“How long have you been here?” she asked another in line with her.
“Two years,” the women tells her.
Later, she found out that the woman was a punisher. She was used by the guards to whip and beat other prisoners for doing wrong. And if she did not obey, she herself would receive a punishment far worse.
She talked to many women who had given birth in the prison, some who’s sisters were sold to ISIS fighters for $25 to become their bride, and some as young as 14 that were used as sex slaves. Callie had a small suspicion that was to be her fate. She wondered how many men would visit her cell that evening.
The line reaches a metal gate, and there is a yard on the other side. Crops are growing there, and it is surrounded by a large fence. One after the other, they marched in, all being dispersed to different areas and different guards. Callie was directed left and was to help weed. How ironic.
During her shift one girl had a meltdown. She threw off her headscarf and tore off her clothes, and ran for the gate. She was screaming in a language Callie didn’t understand. The young woman looked to be Callie’s age, but she couldn’t tell. She was met at the gate of course and then immediately surrounded.
The guards took her out of the fenced in crop area and locked the gate behind them.
One of the guards started yelling. He was screaming in the young girl’s face. He turned to the other guards, and one brought over a cart. The girl was then tied to the metal fence by her wrists and forced to stand. After more yelling in her face, the main guard stepped out of the way. The other guards stood to the side of the cart, and Callie could now see what was inside. It was a cart of large stones. The guard dumps the cart into a line and the. other guards line up behind it.
Each throwing one at a time, they throw the stones. The girl is screaming, and the scene is horrific. Each stone brings her closer to death and more blood ends up on the ground. It is a true stoning, and it is brutal. They keep going until she is gone. The other prisoners, including Callie, can’t help but watch, and they are terrified. The girl is cut down from the fence, loaded into the cart, and taken away. The bloody dirt remains, and the extra stones stay put for now.
The rest of the women seem to get the message. In a scramble, they all go back to work. Callie goes to the ground immediately and starts her weeding. She is shaking and crying and tries to lay low, and do her job. The next five minutes feel like forever, but it only takes that long and then, BOOM!
The Isis compound was being bombed. People were running everywhere, guards and prisoners alike. Callie crawls through the crop, staying on the ground. There is another hit, and she covers her head. She makes it.
She raises her head out of the plants and looks around. Most of the people are flocking back to the main building but when she looks around the other way, she sees there are holes in the large metal fence that was meant to confine them. She sees women running through the broken outline. She stops. She has a choice between the compound and out.
Frame by frame but in a split second her future plays out as grim. There will be more rapes, more beatings and could she have a child here? She has to try, and goes for out.
Callie pulls herself to her feet and starts to run. There is debris and smoke around her and she is tripping over bodies on the ground. She falls and comes face-to-face with a soldier. He is face up, and his chest is blown through, but his eyes are open. She looks the dead evil in the eyes and is frozen for a moment. When she snaps out of it, she grabs his gun, gets up, swings it over her shoulder, and she starts to run.
She’s getting closer, dodging others and jumping over bodies, there is another hit. This time she is blown ahead by the blast. When she lands, her ankle is hurt…but she is alive. She gets up one more time and limping, keeps going. She is two feet from the broken fence when she is caught from behind. The man takes her gun and pulls her out of the fence and around the break.
Chapter Eighteen: No Escape
The guard ties her to another woman, in a string of other women that seem to have met the same fate. This place is inescapable! I am in a nightmare! There are at least a fifteen women standing and backed up against the fence. As the violent attack dies down, they catch five more women, and they too are tied to the line.
There are also about a half dozen soldiers standing opposite them about twenty feet away. They scream out things in Syrian. They then shout out in English.
“You are a disgrace! You are no good! There is NO escape!”
They keep yelling, while waving their guns around. Finally, the yelling stops and all the men get into a perfect line. The guard in the middle shouts, “Allah Akbar!”
The men raise their guns.
Then, they open fire.
Callie watches the women to the right get shot many times and fall to the ground. They are crying out, and there is blood everywhere. She watches as the line of women fall like dominos, and it’s heading her direction. They are all tied together and like the guard said, there is no escape, and no time.
She is hit. It feels like 20 fire pokers hit her in the face and her entire body. Unable to stand, she falls to the ground. Blood is flooding out of her like water from holes in a balloon. The pain is hot, and her insides are screaming. The pain is spreading out from the wounds and taking over her entire body. She is being pulled in all directions by the women around her who are rolling and pulling, but then that starts to die down. She is laying forward with her legs crumpled up behind her, her face pressed into the dirt beneath her.
Her body starts to go numb. The individual pain needles turn into an all over buzzing. She can feel herself fading and tears start to flow from her eyes, even though she’s not really crying. She squeezes her eyes shut and tries to think hard even though her thoughts are getting more clouded by the second. She thinks about how much she loves her mom, she wonders about Hasnaa…she wonders how the volleyball team will do. She misses her family and her silly friends. She wishes she could go see a movie and go to college.
She tries to move, but she is paralyzed and is stuck where she is. She is facing the woman next to her and watches as her eyes go dark. She is dead. Callie is left with regrets and pain. WHY did I want to come here? The American dream of the white picket fence and a family seem like the fantasy now, one she will never see.
She will never have a real husband or a child to care for. She will not finish school or buy a house. She will never use her skills and will never become the great somebody she wanted to be.
She starts to cough and feels the warmth of her own blood surrounding her body on the ground. She is tired. So tired. Her breathing is hard. She tries to keep her eyes open, but they are too heavy. Her last breath is heavy too. She takes in as much air as she can but when it releases, her life goes with every bit of air that escapes.
Once again, Callie is left in a bundle, and a mess. She will not get up this time. She will no longer have to work hard or obey. Nor will she ever be free to become the woman she was raised to be. Dream or fantasy, both are dead.
Chapter Nineteen: The Defector – Part Two
[_“The caliphate is not what you think it is. Women are whipped, sold and stoned. Corpses are on display publicly for weeks.” _]
– Um Asma, former ISIS bride recruiter
The young speaker breaks down in more tears, but keeps going, “It is hard to admit but I must tell you that it was all a trick. My “friends” online promised me many things, and I didn’t find out the truth until it was too late…until I was there.
I was basically used as a prostitute and raped daily by different ISIS fighters. When it got too much for one of the girls, she started yelling and screaming.” The young woman lets out a sigh.
“She ran to the leaders begging them to let her go, but of course that would do nothing to help her. Instead, I watched as they slaughtered her with a knife right in front of me. This is something I could not have imagined when I was speaking to my new “friends” online. What they told me and even the YouTube videos made it seem like something else.” She takes a sip of water.
“On top of the abuse put on me, I was watching people get killed in brutal ways. My only hope was that it was a dream. But it wasn’t, and I thought for sure I was next in line for at least a beating because there was talk spreading, about how unhappy I was.” The young woman says.
“I thought there was no end. I had to know and accept my mistake. Staying in that life however, seemed impossible. A few of us that had the chance to talk, talked about taking our own lives,” she bows her head.
“But then…the compound we were in was bombed. In all of the mess, me and another got out. We barely got out. We pretended to be Syrian refugees and we were able to get to Turkey. The embassy there helped us get home.” There is a long pause.
“My journey with ISIS was no dream. It was a nightmare. Anyone with this dream needs to know about the lies and the horror. There will be no romantic marriage and no mysterious glamour. You will be nothing in a world where even their own are expendable. Any chance of getting out like me is near impossible. Take no hope in my words, but only take the warning.”
Thank you for downloading The Lie, a tale that dives into the romanticized idea, as well as the harsh reality, of leaving it all behind to become a jihadist bride.
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Facebook and Twitter were a place for friends and socializing. The attention was overwhelming and this was her chance to have it all. He would love her and take care of her, and in turn, she would be loyal and devoted. To her, it was perfect. His words and persuasion helped her see how the West was falling apart. He convinced her that she would never have a real future or husband in the U.S., and that Syria was nothing short of paradise. She would be given a traditional lifestyle, marriage, and a home, along with a life of adventure, true meaning, and peace. She was even told of servants and her own car. She was groomed for hours on end, and the attention was flattering. "Think with your heart," he said, "and find a better life." He showed her videos and pictures of him in his jeep, holding a gun. He professed his love to her and said he wanted to marry her. He told her she would be in the newspapers and on the internet, and that people around the world would know who she was. He even started to refer to her as his fiancee. But this is a story about the unfortunate and very harsh reality of a dream turned into abuse, torture, and even death. The is a story about The Lie.