There aren’t enough words to describe this woman. She was brave; brave enough to give up the possibility of freedom to save others. Brave enough to stay true to her beliefs, even when it meant she would be tortured.
American aid worker Kayla Mueller defied her ISIS captors by refusing to convert to Islam and even turned down an opportunity to escape to help save Yazidi sex slaves.
Daniel Rye Ottosen, a Danish freelance photographer, recalled how Mueller was paraded in front of the other prisoners as an example by ISIS butcher Jihadi John.
Ottosen said the terrorist, who real name was Mohammed Emwazi, told the captives: ‘She is much stronger than you guys. She’s much smarter. She converted to Islam.’
Interrupting her captors, Ottosen recalls Kayla saying: ‘No I didn’t.’
He added: ‘I would not have had the guts to say that. I don’t think so.
‘It was very clear that all of us were impressed by the strength that she showed in front of us. That was very clear.’
That was in May 2014 while Mueller was being held in an oil refinery, one of the few times during her captivity that she had contact with other prisoners.
For most of her ordeal, Mueller was kept in isolation, beaten, verbally abused, physically tortured or raped on an almost daily basis.
Later that same year, after being transferred to oil and gas emir Abu Sayyaf’s compound, a Yazidi sex slave who calls herself Julia, recalled how she concocted an escape plan and begged Mueller to come with her.
The girl, who was just 13 at the time, said: ‘I told Kayla, “We want to escape,” and I asked her to come with us.
‘She told me, “No, because I am American. If I escape with you, they will do everything to find us again.”
‘It is better for you to escape alone. I will stay here.’
The hostages have also cast doubt on statements given by Doctors Without Borders (also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) about messages passed to Mueller’s family.
Despite the fact that Mueller did not work for MSF, the organization was heavily involved in negotiation efforts for her release because she had been staying inside one of their compounds immediately before being captured.
Her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, had also been working for MSF as a contractor. He was released after two months having been beaten.
Mueller also was held with three women who worked for the aid organization before they were released in 2014.
Two of those women, named for the first time by ABC as Frida Saide and Patricia Chavez, recalled how Mueller gave them two notes to take back home as they left.
One note Mueller had been forced to write by her ISIS captors containing their demands for her release – a prisoner exchange for al-Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui from a U.S. federal prison or 5 million euros.
The second note, which Mueller penned in secret, was similarly worded but had important contact information written on the back including for friend and college spiritual adviser, Rev. Kathleen Day of Flagstaff’s Northern Arizona University.
Saide and Chavez were also told to memorize an email address which would be used to negotiate for Mueller’s release.
While the women were released in March 2014, it was not until April that MSF staff passed along the smuggled note to Mueller’s parents, and May before they were given the ISIS-ordered letter and email address.
In a statement yesterday, MSF officials said they withheld the information out of fear it would put other captives at risk, and said Mueller herself had requested that the ISIS-ordered letter not be handed over.
But Saide and Chavez, who had no idea any information was being kept from the family, say Mueller never discussed withholding any of the letters with them.
The women, along with a third former captive whose name has not yet been released, also blasted MSF for not mentioning the fact that Mueller and Alkhani were abducted from one of the charity’s vehicles just months before they arrived in Syria.
Saide recalls that, during a safety briefing they received after arriving in the country in 2013, they were told that the kidnap risk to MSF staff was ‘low’ and ‘not something we should worry about.’
Eventually negotiations did begin for Mueller’s release, but by that time America had launched a bombing campaign against the jihadis, causing talks to flounder.
Later that year Mueller was transferred to Sayyaf’s compound where she was kept with the Yazidis as a sex slave, and repeatedly raped by the group’s spiritual leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who took her for a wife.
Mueller died in early 2015 as the result of an airstrike on Sayyaf’s compound.
While exact information about her death is unclear, ISIS claimed the raid was carried out by the Jordanian air force.
Yesterday an ISIS hostage video of Mueller was revealed – showing the aid worker pleading for help from captivity.
Mueller is only seen from the chest up, wearing a green shirt and with her hair covered with a black hijab.
Clearly in distress, she says: ‘My name is Kayla Mueller. I need your help.
‘I’ve been here too long and I’ve been very sick and it’s it’s very terrifying here.’
The 10-second clip ends before she reveals where ‘here’ is – but Mueller was filmed for the proof-of-life video by ISIS militants in Syria which was handed to her parents by the FBI on August 20, 2013, ABC News reports.
‘You just go into almost a catatonic state, I think. You can’t even stand up,’ her father Carl Mueller told Brian Ross about his reaction to seeing his daughter in the video three years ago.
In an interview to air on 20/20 on Friday, her mother Marsha also spoke of her heartbreak at seeing her daughter as a helpless hostage.
‘I saw how thin she looked but I saw that her eyes were very clear and steady,’ she said. ‘It broke my heart but I also saw her strength.’
The 22-megabyte video was sent to a friend of the aid worker, who passed it on to authorities, who then handed it over to her parents.
TIMELINE OF KAYLA MUELLER’S ABDUCTION AND AFTERMATH
AUGUST 3, 2013: Doctors Without Borders said Kayla Mueller arrived at their hospital in Aleppo from southern Turkey at around 4pm with her boyfriend.
Because Mueller and her boyfriend had arrived late in the day, he didn’t have time to finish his work – and were allowed to stay inside the compound that night because there were limited safe places to stay in the Industrial City neighborhood.
AUGUST 4: Mueller’s boyfriend Omar Alkhani asked staff for help getting back to the city’s bus depot, who arranged for a hired car and driver to take them to the bus depot.
All three occupants of the car were stopped and seized by armed men shortly after leaving the hospital. The driver was released an hour later.
AUGUST 20: The FBI pass along a 10-second hostage video to Mueller’s parents, which had been emailed to a friend of hers.
Sometime in August, Alkhani and an MSF worker were released.
JANUARY 2014: Three women and two men who worked for MSF were abducted by ISIS.
APRIL: The three women were released and later revealed they had been held in the same place as Mueller, who had asked them to smuggle a letter to her parents.
They were also told by their captors to memorize an email address to later use to negotiate Mueller’s release.
MSF passed along the letter and information, but decided to withhold the email address out of concern for the safety of the still-detained prisoners.
MAY 14: Two male prisoners were released.
MAY 23: Email address was handed over to the Muellers so hostage negotiations could begin. MSF apologized that Marsha Mueller had to reach out to them first.
MAY 29: Mueller’s parents received an audio clip and their daughter told them that her kidnappers wanted Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s release in exchange for her and if not, then five million euros.
Then, they heard what would be their daughter’s last spoken word to them: ‘Goodbye.’
SEPTEMBER 2014: Mueller was transferred along with two Kurdish women of Yazidi descent from an Islamic State prison to the custody of Abu Sayyaf, a former Islamic State minister for oil and gas.
OCTOBER 2014: A Yazidi teenager who was held with Mueller who escaped in October said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad took Mueller as a ‘wife’, repeatedly raping her when he visited.
FEBRUARY 6, 2015: Islamic State announce that Mueller was killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held, but Jordan expressed doubts about their account of her death.
It remains unclear exactly how she died, but it is believed to be after an airstrike.