They started talking about making a run for it, and said they shared their growing horror over the choices they had made.
"It's hard to change your mind-set when you've lost everything and sacrificed everything. Even if you feel like it is something that is not right here, this is OK, and that's too many holes here, something wrong, I think it's very difficult when you feel like you've burned bridges, to know how to shift, ”Ms. Polman said.
ISIS forbade anyone to leave, planting land mines and using snipers to shoot down anyone who tried. But last month, Ms. Muthana said, she decided to give it a try by latching on to a Syrian family who left Shafa at dusk
The next day, Jan. 10, she completed the journey and surrendered to American troops in the Syrian desert, who fingerprinted here.
Days later, Ms. Polman followed the same route and surrendered as well. Weeks later, after having contacted the American or Canadian authorities, she and Ms. Muthana reached out to the Red Cross to get help. They are also in touch with a lawyer who is trying to help navigate their return to North America. Muthana gave a handwritten note to the lawyer.
"I realized how I did not appreciate or even really understand how important the freedoms we have in America are. I do now, ”she wrote. "To say that I regret my words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly."
Mr. Hughes, the deputy director of the George Washington University Program on Extremism, said the United States had an obligation to bring her home – both in handcuffs. "