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Against all odds, Yazidi girl outlives her top-ranking Islamic State captors

Sipan Ajo, a 22-year-old Yazidi survivor from Kocho, emerged six months ago from seven years of captivity in Syria and has described her ordeal in detail to a journalist for the first time.
Sipan Murad, a Yazidi girl who was held captive by the Islamic State, at her house in Rottweil, Germany, on Feb. 18,  2022.

ROTTWEIL, Germany — They called her Baqiya, Arabic for “she who remains.” She moved in the highest echelons of the Islamic State, serving Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tea, pricking her ears as the former “caliph” and his top commanders planned attacks, playing with his children and accompanying his main wife, “Um Khaled,” to ladies’ dos. She was enslaved by Baghdadi’s most trusted lieutenant, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. The Syrian from Idlib was the Islamic State’s chief strategist and official spokesman, a brute in the bedroom as in the battlefield. He relished killing and bred Arab horses. Then, unexpectedly, he fell in love.

Her real name is Sipan, after a mountain in her native Sinjar in northern Iraq. We met her on a recent morning in a small town in southwest Germany, home of the eponymous guard dog the Rottweiler and a swelling population of refugees. Her smile was serene, her eyes at once gentle and sad. “Welcome,” she said, leading a woman reporter and an Arabic-language translator to the first floor of a modest house near the local cemetery. A jumble of shoes were piled outside the door of the apartment she shares with three brothers, two sisters and a pet bunny.

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