Hava Beitermurzayeva, now 22, slipped away in 2015 from her parents’ home in the village of Gekhi in Chechnya to marry an Islamic State soldier she had met online, and she wound up living in Raqqa, the capital of the militant group’s so-called caliphate in Syria.
She said in an interview that she spent most of her time cloistered at home, with a new son. The Islamic State militants, she added, enforced religious rules and staged public executions, by beheading or stoning, for crimes like adultery.
“The passers-by could stop and watch,” Ms. Beitermurzayeva said, though she says she never did herself.
Back at home now, she seems remarkably untroubled by her experiences and still enthusiastic about the caliphate, though, as she says, it was not God’s will to work out this time. “Everything that happened to me was determined by God,” she said. “If I were to regret it, I would be unhappy with the fate that God gave me.”
At first, Hamzat, 6, and his younger brothers, the boys who battle each other in their grandmother’s living room, talked very little when they moved in with her in Dachu-Borzoi, a village in the Caucasus Mountains in Chechnya. They just played their war games. But with time, they mellowed, Ms. Zulgayeva said.
They had been living in Tal Afar, Iraq, when American-backed Iraqi forces surrounded the city. Their father died in the fighting. After a bomb flattened a neighboring house, their mother, Fatima, decided to get out with the three boys and their baby sister.
But Hamzat and his brothers, Malik, 4, and Abdullah, 5, became separated from her at a checkpoint. She remains detained in Iraq, while the Russian government returned the boys and their baby sister, Halima, who turned 1 this month.
“It’s a miracle they all made it back alive,” Ms. Zulgayeva said.