Rescued Swedish Teen Speaks About Life Under ISIS and Why She Traveled to Syria

February 24, 2016 Updated: February 25, 2016

A Swedish teen who made headlines around the world on Feb. 23, after being rescued from ISIS-controlled territory by Kurdish special forces has spoken out in her first interview.

Talking to Kurdistan 24 (K24), a Kurdish television station based in Iraq, the girl shed light on why she decided to leave everything behind and travel to Syria with her boyfriend.

In the interview Marlin Stivani Nivarlain said that she stopped going to school at age 14 and met her boyfriend soon afterward.

“First it was good together, but then he started to look at ISIS videos, and started to speak about them,” Marlin said.

“I didn’t know anything about Islam or ISIS,” she said.

Marlin said that after some time her boyfriend came to her with a proposal.

He said he wanted to go to ISIS. I said no problem, because I didn’t know what ISIS means, what Islam is.
— Marlin Stivani Nivarlain

“He said he wanted to go to ISIS,” she said.

“I said no problem, because I didn’t know what ISIS means, what Islam is.”

After deciding to make the dangerous journey, Marlin and her boyfriend left on May 31, 2015.

They first took the train from Sweden to Denmark, then traveled by train to Germany, then they took another train to Hungary through Slovakia, after which they traveled to Serbia. In Serbia, she said, they hitchhiked to Bulgaria. From Bulgaria they took the bus to the border of Turkey, and after crossing the border into Turkey they took a bus to the Syrian border and crossed over.

After arriving in Syria they surrendered themselves to ISIS.

“ISIS took us in a bus with some other women and men to Mosul in Iraq,” she said.

The ISIS terrorist group took over the city of Mosul with a population of 2.5 million in June 2014.

In the house we didn’t have anything, no electricity, no water, nothing.
— Marlin Stivani Nivarlain

“Then I got my house, in the house we didn’t have anything, no electricity, no water, nothing.”

“Didn’t have any money either, it was really a hard life.”

Marlin said life there was completely different from life in Sweden, where, compared to Mosul, she said there was everything.

She soon developed a desire to go back to Sweden. After obtaining a phone, Marlin called her mother saying that she wanted to go back home.

Her mother then contacted the Swedish authorities. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement on Feb. 23 that it had been contacted by Swedish authorities with a request to find and rescue the girl.

The teen is currently being held in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq, before she will be handed over to Swedish authorities.

Marlin said that she is excited to meet her family again and “have a happy life.”

For years now, European nations have struggled with ISIS sympathizers traveling to Syria or Iraq to join the terrorist group. ISIS’s sophisticated online recruitment has proven effective in luring people over to live in its self-proclaimed caliphate. According to the European Union, thousands of Europeans have traveled to Syria to join ISIS.

Europol sent out a warning earlier this month saying that an estimated 5,000 Europeans have since returned from Syria after having been trained at terrorist camps.