Stockholm // Marilyn Nevalainen was just 15 years old, and pregnant, when she left Sweden with an ISIL recruit.
She did not realise the mistake she had made until she was in Iraq. Desperate, she called home from the ISIL stronghold of Mosul begging for help, and was ultimately rescued by Kurdish forces.
Ms Nevalainen, from the south-western Swedish town of Boras, returned to Sweden on Thursday with her parents, who had travelled to Iraq several times over the past eight months to try to bring her home, the regional newspaper Boras Tidning reported.
Police said her boyfriend, Moktar Mohammed Ahmed, a Moroccan who arrived in Sweden as an unaccompanied minor three years ago, was dead.
Kurdish forces rescued the teenager near Mosul on February 17, according to the Kurdistan Regional Security Council.
A spokeswoman for Sweden’s foreign ministry said the rescue was the result of “collaboration between the Swedish authorities and foreign governments” but would not reveal details.
In an interview broadcast this week by the Kurdistan 24 TV channel, Ms Nevalainen said in broken English that she met her boyfriend in 2014 and that he became radicalised after watching ISIL videos.
“Then he said he wanted to go to ISIS and I said, ‘Okay, no problem,’ because I did not know what ISIS meant or what Islam was,” she said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.
Ms Nevalainen was pregnant when she and Ahmed left Sweden in May last year, taking trains and buses across Europe until they finally crossed the border from Turkey to Syria. They were then driven by ISIL militants to Mosul in northern Iraq.
ISIL took over Mosul and other parts of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014. It has since suffered several setbacks as it faces Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground, as well as a US-led aerial campaign. It also controls large areas of Syria.
The group has committed horrific abuses against the civilian population in both war-torn countries, including kidnapping and forcing thousands of women and girls into sexual slavery.
“In my house we had nothing, no electricity, no water, nothing. It was totally different from how I lived in Sweden, because in Sweden we have everything, and when I was there I did not have anything, did not have any money either. It was a very hard life,” Ms Nevalainen said.
“When I got a phone, I started to contact my mum and I said I wanted to go home. She contacted the Swedish authorities.”
Swedish media have published desperate text messages Ms Nevalainen sent her mother while she was stuck in Iraq.
“I’m going to die in a bombing or they’re going to beat me to death or I’m going to kill myself mum, really, I don’t have the strength to go on,” she wrote.
According to Swedish media reports, she gave birth to a son in Iraq and returned with him to Sweden.
Ahmed arrived in Sweden alone in August 2013 at the age of 17, Swedish police said.
“He had been a suspect in a burglary in Stockholm,” said Ulf Hoffmann, a police investigator.
He said Ahmed, who was also suspected of drug crimes, was dead, but did not say how he had died.
In an undated video posted on the internet, Ahmed gives his date of birth as July 8, 1996, before declaring his hatred of the Swedish “racists”.
* Agence France-Presse