The cuddly toy, which the German teenager was holding on to while facing death penalty in an Iraqi prison, made a powerful statement — she was too young to know what she was doing when she fled to Iraq to join Islamic State (IS).
Now 17, Linda Wenzel had a fleeting and tearful reunion recently with her mother Katharina who brought her the toy with a red Christmas hat to remind her of better times they had at their home in Germany.
Their emotional family reunion was telecast by the German channel Das Erste on December 14.
“I don’t know why I had this stupid idea to join ISIL (IS). It spoilt my life,” says Linda to German journalists in the video.
She told them how at 15, she was unhappy at school and sought another life. That was when she befriended a Chechen Muslim man on Facebook who soon started persuading her to convert to Islam. He sent her videos of couples wandering through parks and baking bread together. It was like being in the other world she was dreaming of. She agreed to marry him.
One day, she left her home with a note on the kitchen table saying: “I’ll be back on Sunday about 4pm.”
She travelled via Turkey to Syria and then Iraq. She and her lover got married but the man soon died in a battle.
In the video, Linda says the life she was promised in the Caliphate turned into a hell soon after her arrival. She found herself trapped in a house with other women. Jets and drones kept pounding the area day in and day out and she was forced to carry dead babies. She was found and detained along with three women by Iraqi forces after the liberation of Mosul in July this year.
Linda’s parents are not sure whether she will get a fair trial in Iraq next month. In September, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said she might face death penalty.
There is no extradition treaty between Germany and Iraq. Still, her father Reiner Wenzel wants German authorities to pressure Iraq to get her released to face a fair trial back home. Under German law, she may face a maximum of 10 years jail term for being a member of a terrorist group.
Linda says she never fought for IS. The only crime she did was forge her mother’s signature to buy an air ticket to Istanbul to meet her future husband.
Like Linda, six other German women, some with their children, are awaiting trial in Iraq on suspicion of fighting for IS.