A Syrian elementary school teacher says she joined ISIS to help topple President Bashar al-Assad, but ended up fleeing the group for her life. Covered in a niqab and calling herself Khadija, she tells CNN that she initially enjoyed demonstrations against al-Assad and came to hate the chaos and bloodshed of war. "My problem was I ran away to something uglier," she says. After meeting a Tunisian online who promoted ISIS, she joined an all-female arm of the group called Khansa'a Brigade. With 25 to 30 other women, Khadija walked the streets Raqqa to ensure that women covered their eyes and wore only loose-fitting abayas. "At the start, I was happy with my job," she says. "I felt that I had authority in the streets."
The group's leader was a "huge," terrifying woman with "an AK, a pistol, a whip, [and] a dagger," says Khadija. "She got close to me and said a sentence I won't forget. She said, 'We are harsh with the infidels, but merciful among ourselves.'" But 25-year-old Khadija struggled to accept what she saw: women whipped for violating Islamic law, a teenage boy crucified for rape, a man beheaded in front of her, and foreign ISIS fighters who sexually abused their own wives. When Khadija's commander wanted to marry her off, that was it: Khadija fled to Turkey, where she's readjusting to regular life and yearning to be the "merry" girl she once was. Business Insider says the interview reveals the "blurred lines" in Syria, where disappointed revolutionaries are willing to join the Islamic State—which is so "brutal" that it's "capable of alienating even a once-loyal foot soldier." (Read more ISIS stories.)