Why Kayla Mueller, raped repeatedly by ISIS leader, refused to escape

A teenage Yazidi girl, who had also been held and raped by the ISIS leader, revealed the conditions of Kayla Mueller's captivity to US officials. 

The Daily Courier, Jo. L. Keener via AP
In this May 30, 2013, photo, Kayla Mueller is shown after speaking to a group in Prescott, Ariz.

Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi, the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), had repeatedly raped American hostage Kayla Mueller during her 1.5 years in captivity, US intelligence officials told her family in June.

"They told us that he married her, and we all understand what that means," the victim’s father, Carl Mueller, told The Associated Press. Ms. Mueller, whose death was reported in February, would have turned 27 on Friday. 

"Kayla did not marry this man,” added her mother, Marsha Mueller. “He took her to his room and he abused her and she came back crying." 

A 14-year old Yazidi girl captured by ISIS in Iraq last August revealed the American aid worker’s ordeal to US officials who later confirmed the reports. The young girl says she spent two months with Mueller in a house in the Syrian town of al-Shadadiya before escaping in October 2014, reports London’s Independent newspaper.

ISIS militants held Mueller and the witness in a room with two other Yazidi teenagers and repeatedly abused all four girls. When al-Baghdadi was around, he would take Mueller to his room, the Yazidi teen said, and the hostage would then tell her fellow captives what he had done to her.

Mueller tried to shield the girls from the terrorists’ abuse and violence, sometimes putting their lives before hers. When the Yazidi girl escaped with her sister, she asked the American to join them, US officials relayed. Yet Mueller refused out of fear that her foreign appearance would put them in danger.

"Kayla tried to protect these young girls," her mother told AP. "She was like a mother figure to them."

Mueller had reportedly been moved from the house by the time the Yazidi escapee shared her accounts with Delta Force commandos in Iraq.

Since ISIS announced its revival of institutional slavery a year ago, the group has systematically enslaved and raped thousands of women from the minority Yazidi community, according to New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi.

“The Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts,” writes Ms. Callimachi.

“A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.”

According to Yazidi witnesses, Umm Sayyaf, an ISIS financier’s wife, had organized the sex trade during Mueller’s captivity. Ms. Sayaff has been cooperating with military interrogators since US Special Forces captured her in May, reports The Independent. She confirmed that al-Baghdadi had “owned” Mueller, during a drawn out American interrogation in Iraq, US officials told the hostage’s family.

ISIS had offered to exchange Mueller for a €5m ransom and the release of one its followers held in an American prison, but officials declined as the US policy is to refuse to pay ransoms to terrorists.  

In a letter given to released French captives in 2014 but only revealed after her death, Mueller wrote she had “formed a bond of love and support” for the other hostages. “I am not breaking down and I will not give in no matter how long it takes,” she wrote.

Mueller had begged her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, to take her with him to Syria in order to help those suffering in the war-torn country. Both were taken hostage in August 2013 after leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria, AP reports. 

The exact circumstances of her death remain unclear. ISIS claimed she was killed by a Jordanian air strike near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in Syria, but that has not been confirmed. 

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