A paradise turned into a horror show. This was how life in the Syrian city of Raqqa has changed since it fell in the clutches of the Islamic State, three women who defected from the jihadist group and fled to Turkey revealed.
Raqqa, under ISIS control for nearly two years, serves as the de facto capital of the extremist group, NBC News said.
Umm Asma, who was part of the welcoming party for foreign women as well the female morality police known by ISIS as the al-Khansaa Brigade, said women mostly came from Europe and were happy to come to Syria.
"Mostly they were from Germany, France and the UK — many countries," she said, as quoted by NBC News. "A translator would talk to the women, and say, 'welcome. Come to the car. We're going to the headquarters to give you Islamic dress and show you how to wear it. Then we'll take you to your post and God willing you will be happy there.'"
She said women were excited to join what they believe to be an Islamic paradise on earth ruled by Allah's law.
"They came for the love of the Islamic State and the love of religion of Islam," she said, noting that female recruiters are used by ISIS to lure other women to join via social media.
Umm Asma, together with her colleague Dua, who was forced to marry a Saudi man fighting for ISIS before joining the feared morality police, and Umm Ous, who gave military training to members of the al-Khansaa Brigade, said they were happy to be part of ISIS.
But then the brutality became too appalling for them.
"They would cut off heads, and put the heads on the streets, or display bodies where everyone, even children, can see them. It was too much," Dua said.
"For example, they displayed bodies," said Umm Asma. "A body would stay hung on the street, so you'd have to pass it ... it smelled and dogs would eat it, everything happened. You would see heads on the ground. It was disgusting," she said.
The three said they now regret joining the extremist group, but think their link to ISIS has so tainted them that it would be hard to rebuild their lives.
"I can never go back to Raqqa. Even if ISIS is thrown out, because so many people have suffered, they won't accept me back," Dua said.