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Marriage Proposals in the Caliphate

Marriage Proposals in the Caliphate features thirty-three-year-old Syrian, ISIS commander Abu Said who was interviewed in November 2015 in southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla.It was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. This counter narrative video highlights the ways in which ISIS cadres preyed upon local women and their families.

In Marriage Proposals in the Caliphate, Abu Said talks about how foreign fighters and ISIS emirs would take notice of local Syrian women and stalk them, finding where they lived and then pressuring their families into handing them over for marriage.  Some of these marriages lasted only a few months in which the woman was sexually exploited and then discarded by her ISIS husband. Fathers who resisted ISIS marriage proposals for their daughters would sometimes marry them off to relatives or fear serious retribution.

Abu Said also talks about the sale of Yazidi women and their young sons being forced into ISIS service, some being so brainwashed that they started insisting everyone follow ISIS rules.

Abu Said also comments on the local Syrian responses to ISIS wealth, noting a particular case in which a mother joined the ISIS hisbah and had her two sons join as well for monetary gains. She married her handicapped daughter off to an ISIS emir for a large payment and the insisted her other daughter who was married in Turkey divorce her husband and return to do the same, increasing her financial gains.

Abu Said details these practices pointing out that ISIS is a corrupt, unIslamic and highly brutal organization that one should not join.

Discussion Questions: 

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Abu Said is who he says he is and is telling the truth about his experiences inside ISIS?

What do you think of foreign fighters pressuring local young women to be married to them for short marriages and then discarded? What do you think happened to these young women?

What do you think of families selling their daughters for marriage to ISIS emirs?

Do you think it’s Islamic for ISIS to force captive women to become sex slaves for their foreign fighters?

What do you think of conscripting Yazidi boys into ISIS service?

How do you think these boys and the Yazidi women cope now with what happened to them?

Timed transcript of Marriage Proposals in the Caliphate video:

Marriage Proposals in the Caliphate

0:01     He would look at her physique—her height, her body, her eyes,

0:08     because he cares about her height, body and eyes.

0:10     So, if he likes her, he’ll chase her and find out where she lives.

0:16     ISIS had a lot of people everywhere, masha Allah.

0:21     He will find out who her father is, what family she’s from.

0:27     They get this information within twenty-four hours.

0:30     ABU SAID

Former ISIS Commander

Once he knows who she is, he’ll go and ask for her hand in marriage.

0:36     After they ask for her hand, most people won’t marry their daughters off to [ISIS].

0:36     They know who [ISIS] truly are—they will marry a girl for a month, then leave her.

0:45     Some people would come up with excuses,

0:48     saying their daughter is still studying or something.

0:51     Once there was this girl whose father was trying to avoid an emir who was chasing [his


1:06    The emir was persistent in asking for her hand.

1:10     Her father was worried he’d be in trouble for resisting or that they would take her by


1:20     If [ISIS members] ask for your daughter’s hand and you say, ‘No,’ it’s like you’re

rejecting [ISIS].

1:27     He had to [force] his daughter to marry her cousin just to get rid of that emir!

1:34     [Another] woman had two daughters.

1:37     This woman joined the hisbah [ISIS’s religious police].

1:40     One of her daughters was cross-eyed.

1:42     This [cross-eyed] daughter in Raqqawas married off to an [ISIS] emir.

1:47     The emir gave her [mother]700,000 [Syrian] lira.

1:50     The woman married her daughter to him for the money! She was greedy.

1:55     Then she recruited two of her sons to work with her at the hisbah

1:58     and she wanted her other daughter [in Turkey] to divorce her husband in Turkey and

come back

2:02     to marry someone else who would [also] pay 700,000 [Syrian] lira.

2:09     She even accused her son-in-law [in Turkey] of being infertile—

2:18     all that to marry her [daughter]to an emir for 700,000 lira!

2:25     That incident happened right in front of me.

2:28     This happened a lot, because they gave large amounts of money [to marry local


2:35     Regarding female captives, I saw things.

2:41     I’ve heard about the captives

2:49     and knew they were for the foreign fighters only.

2:54     They brought Yazidi captives to Tell Abyad [in Syria].

3:01     Some of the women and their children were converted to Islam and joined ISIS.

3:08     There was one strange situation I remember.

3:11     One of the sex slave’s children who had joined ISIS, arrested someone for smoking.

3:15     They brought [the accused] to the hisbah.

3:19     The [Yazidi] boy asked ‘How can you break the law in the land of Allah?’

3:23     The [female] captiveswere distributed for money.

3:29     They were sold for between US $1,500-4000 depending on how beautiful they were.

3:40     They would be sold to ISIS fighters,

3:49     and the money would be added to ISIS’s treasury fund.

4:00     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

4:13     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

4:08     See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=81) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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