Maryrose was born in 1973 to a modest Muslim family in the Syrian village of Tabqa in Raqqa province (for security reasons her real name will remain undisclosed). She received her degree in English literature and married Abdel Latif Khatab in 2002. Her husband was a well-educated and open-minded man in a region known for its strict tribal conservatism. Together they had a daughter in 2003. They lived a simple and happy life in the city of Raqqa until tragedy struck one day, and her husband was killed during a fight with members of an extremist group.
Maryrose, who was pregnant at the time, was completely devastated. Shortly after the death of her husband, she gave birth to her second daughter and suddenly found herself barely able to provide for her family. With few resources, she managed to survive difficult times until the Syrian revolution erupted in 2011, and Raqqa was suddenly overrun by Islamic fighters.
“The city was invaded by armed fanatics with long beards who looked terrifying,” Maryrose said. She was forced to limit her movement and only left her home to get needed groceries. Despite all the precautions she took, she was living in fear and suffered greatly under the rule of the newly established ISIS caliphate.
One day, she accidentally found a Bible at the library where she worked and began reading it. Maryrose immediately fell in love with Jesus. She discreetly joined a prayer group and found a priest who provided her with spiritual guidance. Finally in 2015, Maryrose was secretly baptized with her mother and her two daughters. Fearing reprisal from society and ISIS fighters, she kept her newly found faith a secret, especially since according to Sharia (Islamic Law), anyone leaving Islam would be executed if ever caught.
But her secret was about to be briefly exposed when a gunman noticed her while she was making the sign of the cross. The gunman dragged her by her hair in the middle of street vowing that she will be stoned to death. Luckily, some people passing by intervened to help her make a timely escape.
Despite being traumatized by the abuse she received, things became even worse for Maryrose. A relative from her husband’s tribe arrived at her house and requested to see her daughters. Realizing the girls’ age and following strict tribal traditions, he demanded that they get married soon. Maryrose was terrified that her daughters would be taken away from her. The mere thought of arranged marriages horrified them, especially the eldest daughter Leen, who was already suffering from severe anxiety and had lost almost all her hair.
One of her cousins informed Maryrose that her husband’s family was planning to kidnap the girls. She realized that she had no choice but to run away immediately. She packed whatever she could carry, and the family boarded the first bus out of the city.
They did not know where to go, and kept moving from one location to another until they reached Iraq. With no income and very little money left, the only place they could afford was a small apartment in a dangerous suburb of Anbar city. There the girls began to suffer from daily harassment and were at risk of being raped or kidnapped. Once again, they were so afraid to go out that they stayed home all the time. Eventually, Maryrose discovered that her husband’s family were tracking her again and had discovered her new location.
Desperate and running out of options, Maryrose never stopped asking Jesus to save her and her family. Her prayers were about to be answered. She learned about The Nazarene Fund through a mutual friend. Shortly after communication was established, the TNF team was able to locate Maryrose and escort her and her family to a more remote and safe location.
After years of suffering and living in terror, Maryrose and her family are finally safe. They are currently under the protection of TNF and will continue to receive assistance and care until they are safely relocated overseas.