Iraq Issues Death Sentence for Wife of Slain Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

FILE - This file image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports
Militant video via AP, File

The Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq on Wednesday sentenced an unnamed wife of former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to death, almost five years after her husband was killed by an American Special Forces operation ordered by President Donald Trump.

The Iraqi court ruled Baghdadi’s wife was guilty of cooperating with ISIS operations and holding Yazidi women kidnapped by the terror state as slaves in her Mosul home.

“The criminal court today sentenced Baghdadi’s wife to death by hanging for crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Yazidi people, and also for contributing to terrorism actions,” an Iraqi court official said.

The Yazidi are a tiny religious and ethnic minority who live primarily in the Sinjar mountains of Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province. The Yazidis were hideously abused by the Islamic State, which raped, murdered, and enslaved them with feral glee. Some Yazidi children were forced into service as soldiers by ISIS.

The Yazidi, who are disdained as devil-worshipping heretics by some Muslims, were nearly wiped out by ISIS at the height of its power. Almost a decade after the attempted genocide began, many of them still live in refugee camps, in part because the central government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have been fighting over jurisdiction in Nineveh and delaying reconstruction of the devastated Yazidi homeland.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who, as his sobriquet implied, was born in the Baghdad region of Iraq – was the self-declared “caliph” of the Islamic State. His real name was Ibrahim Awad al-Badri.

Baghdadi was a secretive figure who was known mainly through mythmaking anecdotes spread by ISIS recruiters, but he was definitively known to have participated in the terrorist resistance to United States occupation after the fall of Saddam Hussein and was detained by American forces in 2004. Exactly how he came to be the political, military, and religious leader of the ISIS terror state remains something of a mystery.

Baghdadi lost much of his mystique by dying very poorly when U.S. special forces found him hiding in Syria in October 2019. 

According to President Trump, he “died like a dog” after being chased into a tunnel by literal dogs, dragging three of his children with him as body shields. Trump said Baghdadi was “whimpering, and crying, and screaming all the way” until he decided to kill himself and his children by detonating a suicide vest.

“He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious, and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying,” Trump said.

Al Jazeera News said on Wednesday that Baghdadi was “known to have four wives,” one of whom was captured in Turkey about a week after his death.

The BBC spoke to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official who identified the woman sentenced to death on Wednesday as Baghdadi’s first wife Asma Mohammed, who also uses the name Umm Hudaifa.

Hudaifa was arrested in Turkey in 2018 and transferred to Iraqi custody in 2023. She gave an interview to the BBC from a prison in Baghdad in June, during which she denied participating in ISIS crimes and claimed she was married to Baghdadi for years before she realized he was a terrorist. She further claimed she did not know he was the “caliph” of the Islamic State until she saw him announce the foundation of the terror state on television.

Hudaifa claimed the atrocities her husband presided over were a “huge shock” to her, since she believes “to spill blood unjustly is a horrendous thing.” She said she tried to escape from her home but was prevented each time by Baghdadi’s goons, and had no idea who the kidnapped Yazidi women kept in her house were.

Yazidi women and their families sharply disputed these claims in Iraqi court, charging that Hudaifa was the willing mastermind of Baghdadi’s slavery ring.

“She was responsible for everything. She made the selections – this one to serve her, that one to serve her husband,” charged the sister of a Yazidi victim.


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