Jessica Roy Talks About ‘Two Sisters and the Terrorist Who Came Between Them’


On this episode of ZUCKER, host Andrew Zucker is joined by Jessica Roy, the Deputy Editor of Roy talks about her story, ‘Two Sisters and the Terrorist Who Came Between Them.’

On Sam Elhassani’s husband’s decision to join ISIS: I think it’s complicated. I think he had a history of mental health issues that were unaddressed, which, if you read anything about a lot of the Westerners who joined ISIS, a lot of the people in general who joined ISIS, a lot of them also have a history of mental health problems. And I think also from people that I talked to, he was also into drugs. I think that may have had something to do with the way he was thinking at the time. And then also, there was this opportunity I think at the time that the Caliphate was starting to form, where people thought, ‘Oh, all of these rich Syrians have been driven out of their homes. Like, I can benefit from that.’

On Sam’s escape from ISIS: Moussa died in the final siege of Raqqa fighting as an ISIS sniper, and she lived for a little bit of time with his brother, Abdelhedi. And basically the armies that were fighting had arranged for a caravan to basically take the remaining ISIS supporters out of Raqqa and take them to a different location. And basically they wanted to round them all up into one area, so that they could make sure to get them all at once. So Sam and her children joined sort of a caravan of like the last ISIS fighters and wives and children of ISIS fighters and ended up in Deir ez-Zur with her children and also with Ayham, Soad, and Bedrine. And from there, she was able to make contact with a family that was living next door to the house where she was staying. And she convinced the guy who lived there basically to smuggle her across the red line into Kurdish territory so that she could turn herself over.

On speaking with Sam Elhassini: The jail that [Sam] is being held in doesn’t allow for in-person visits, so I was only able to talk with her on the phone. But we spoke extensively and I also was able to go to one of her hearings and see her in person. But it was mostly phone interviews.