A Swedish teenager rescued from Islamic State militants in Iraq has spoken of the “hard life” she endured before being rescued by Kurdish special forces. The 16-year-old girl told a Kurdish TV channel that she was looking forward to returning to her home in Borås, east of Gothenburg, and a “happy life” after she was recovered near Mosul last week.
In what appeared to be a partially scripted first interview since being rescued, she did not mention the fate of the son she reportedly gave birth to in November. The girl disappeared from her foster home in May last year when she was 15, travelling with her 19-year-old boyfriend who went on to fight for Isis.
She said she agreed to travel to Syria with her boyfriend despite knowing nothing about Islam or Isis.
“First we were good but then he started to look at Isis videos and speak about them and stuff like that,” she said in the brief interview. “He said he wanted to go to Isis and I said ‘OK, no problem’, because I didn’t know what Isis means, what Islam is – nothing.”
After making their way across Europe by bus, train and hitchhiking, the couple entered Syria near the south-eastern Turkish border town of Gaziantep.
From there, Isis militants ferried them by bus with other men and women to the city of Mosul in neighbouring Iraq and provided them with a house. She said: “In the house we didn’t have anything, no electricity, no water, nothing. It was totally different. In Sweden we have everything and when I was there [in Mosul] we didn’t have anything.”
The girl believed a phone call home led to her rescue.
“When I had a phone I started to contact my mum and I said ‘I want to go home’.” The teenager added: “She contacted the Swedish authorities and the Swedish authorities contacted …” at which point she broke off, saying she could not read an apparently scripted answer.
The Kurdish regional government said on Tuesday that the teenager had been “misled” by her boyfriend when they left Sweden. A statement added that she was in Iraqi Kurdish territory, was being “provided the care afforded to her under international law”, and would be sent home as soon as possible.
A senior Kurdish security official said Swedish authorities had been in continuous contact with the girl and had organised the operation to rescue her in cooperation with regional authorities.
Security services estimate that hundreds of western men and women have left home to join Isis since the group overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in June 2014. A mother who took her 14-month-old son to Syria to join Isis fighters was jailed for six years by a British court earlier this month.
Several hundred Swedish nationals are reported to have travelled to fight with Isis. According to one police official, almost half of these have come from Gothenburg. Speaking in November, Ulf Boström said this made the city the biggest single European contributor to the group as a proportion of its population.
Boström told Swedish newspaper Göteborg-Posten that the young people being radicalised were from the same demographic that was drawn to Gothenburg’s criminal gangs.
Mosul was the first major Iraqi city to fall into the hands of Isis during a blitz in June 2014, when the group swept across vast areas in the country’s north and west.
The city remains under the group’s control while Iraqi forces, aided by airstrikes carried out by the US-led international coalition, are battling to reclaim ground. Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces are fighting Isis militants to the north and east of the city.