A few months before she died, Sara was courted by a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Sara, who lived with her husband and three children in ISIL's de facto capital of Raqqa, in Syria, rejected the advances of Abu al-Muthna al-Iraqi, an ISIL member from Iraq. Her decision set off a chain of events that would ultimately lead to her death.

"In the beginning, [Iraqi] wanted to marry her, thinking she was unwed," said Sara's husband, Samer, who declined to provide the family's last name fearing repercussions against relatives still in Raqqa.

Upset by Iraqi's advances, Samer complained to the local authorities, who issued a warning against Iraqi. But from there, things only got worse for the family.


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"The offences increased ... [Iraqi] whipped my son for smoking and cursed at him repeatedly," Samer said. Throughout the territory the group has seized, ISIL has harshly punished smokers and others deemed to be in contravention of the group's many edicts.

"He [Iraqi] also tried to break into our home several times under the pretext that there was contraband inside, despite the neighbours' refutation of this," Samer recalled.

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Sara, who was 28 when she died, demanded that Samer request a meeting with a top official in Raqqa. He was eventually granted a meeting with a local judge, who fined Iraqi for his indiscretions.

But the harassment continued, Samer said. This, combined with heavy bombing in Raqqa during the summer of 2014, prompted the family to decide to leave the city.

But on September 14, 2014, Samer came home from the grocery store to find his wife gone. She had been arrested on charges of obscenity while cleaning their home, neighbours and his crying children told Samer, who maintains the charges were false.

"After this event, I sent the children to Aleppo ... [while] I stayed in Raqqa to follow her case," Samer said.

He would later learn, from another ISIL fighter, that his wife died in prison on November 4, 2014.

"[She] was severely tortured by ISIL members in prison, who undressed and whipped her," Samer said. "After several days, she died of a heart attack, as was told to me by an ISIL member."


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After Sara's death, ISIL turned her body over to her family, and she was buried in Raqqa.

Samer misses his wife each day. He remembers her as a brave and hard-working woman who was patient with him even in his moments of anger.

"She was the dearest person I ever knew," he said. "I didn't experience a single bad thing from her over the course of our marriage." 

Samer, who now lives with their children in Aleppo, says she was as good a mother as she was wife: "She gave them the best upbringing." 

Neighbours also had a good relationship with Sara, often remarking "on the simplicity and strong, moral fibre she bestowed," Samer added.

Now working at a meat market in Aleppo, Samer plans to take his three children to Turkey as the family tries to rebuild their shattered lives. 

"[Sara] was the most cherished thing in my life," Samer said, as he sat in a darkened room with his hands folded in prayer. "I ask God to have mercy on her and to accept her as one his martyrs."

Source: Al Jazeera