The Story behind the Horror: To survive in Syria meant supporting whippings of friends for clothing infractions and those who resisted, or whose family or friends had the wrong connections, were detained, tortured or killed.
But every concession turned to horror before long, and the women came to deplore how they were pitted against their neighbors, part of a force tearing apart the community they loved. Only months in, widowed and abandoned and forced to marry strangers again, would they see how they were being used as temporary salves to foreign fighters whose only dedication was to violence and an unrecognizable God.
Each of them was driven to the conviction that escape was a last chance at life. And each joined the flow of Syrians abandoning their country, leaving a void to be filled by the foreigners who held nothing of Syria in their hearts.
Dua, Aws and Asma were among the lucky: The choice to join was available to them. And each chose to barter her life, through work and marriage, to the Organization.
None of them subscribed to its extreme ideology, and even after fleeing their homes and going into hiding, they still struggle to explain how they changed from modern young women into Islamic State morality enforcers.
In the moment, each choice seemed like the right one, a way to keep life tolerable: marrying fighters to assuage the Organization and keep their families in favor; joining the Khansaa Brigade to win some freedom of movement and an income in a city where women had been stripped of self-determination.