ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The German teenage wife of a reportedly influential Islamic State member told Kurdistan 24 on Friday about her motivations for joining her spouse under the group's self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.
She introduced herself as Leonora, aged 19, and was with another woman of unknown origin named Sabina, both being held at a processing center in eastern Syria and both said to be wives of German Islamic State member Martin Lemke.
He is accused of being an influential member of the group's notorious intelligence service, known as the Amniyat.
The two women had just fled the last pocket of territory controlled by the Islamic State, in Deir al-Zor Province along the Iraqi border, and were being detained by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They said that Lemke was suffering from an unspecified health condition and had been captured along with them.
According to a 2017 report in Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, Lemke first arrived in the terrorist group's Syrian capital of Raqqa in November 2014. Shortly after, Leonora told AFP on Thursday, she had married Lemke to become his third wife.
She was fifteen years old at the time.
"I come to the Islamic State because I was [a] two month's new convert and I want[ed] to live Islamic," Leonora told Kurdistan 24 on Friday, sitting with a baby. "My parents are not Muslim... I come from a Christian family."
"It's very hard, especially in the area where I live," she said, referring to her province of origin in eastern Germany, Saxony-Anhalt. "It's very hard to live like a Muslim."
After being in contact with Lemke, she decided to join him and traveled to Turkey to meet him. They soon crossed over the border into Syria and ended up in Raqqa, where they were married.
Once in Syria, she said, "I have everything. I can marr[y], I can have kids, I can cover my face."
But, she added, she soon began to realize the true ramifications of what she had become a part of.
"I wake up and I see that I was naive," she said, and that she had become "part of terrorists."
As the Islamic State loses its grip on its last territory, residents of the villages the group now controls continue to flee to surrounding areas.
"Our lives were very good in the first two years," said Lemke's second wife Sabina, aged 34, speaking of the period of the Islamic State's prominence.
"But then, there came a few problems from this to that." After the fall of Raqqa, she said, "the problems were increasing."
"We wanted life under Sharia," she answered, when asked why she had originally joined the Islamic State.
"Just life, not death."
Editing by John J. Catherine