She said that after her first husband died in an Iraqi resistance group leaving her to care for young twin boys, her uncle approached her father about a potential new husband looking for a widow. That new husband was the current leader of ISIS — but not to al-Dulaimi.
"I married a normal person who was a university lecturer. At the time his name was Hisham Mohammad," al-Dulaimi told the newspaper.
Al-Dulaimi said she moved into his home with her kids — a "tough" arrangement given that al-Baghdadi’s first wife also lived in the "small space" with her children.
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Her new husband "didn't say much about his background," al-Dulaimi explained.
"I could have lived like a princess. I don't want money. I want to live in freedom"
"He was mysterious. He wasn't very talkative," she said, adding that he taught religion at the university but would "sometimes disappear " for days at a time.
Still, al-Dulaimi said she "didn't notice" any involvement in the Syrian resistance while they were together.
"He was a normal family man," she said. "How he could become emir of the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world is a mystery."
While al-Baghdadi "loved the children" and was "their idol," al-Dulaimi said she was deeply unhappy in the "shallow" marriage.
"I didn't love him," she explained. "He was an enigmatic person. You couldn't have a discussion or hold a normal conversation with him … He just asked about things and told me to fetch things. He gave orders, nothing more."
The last time she spoke to her ex-husband was in 2009, al-Dulaimi said, when her ex asked if she wanted to come back and she refused.
Looking back, al-Dulaimi said she didn't truly understand who her "lecturer" husband had become until she was arrested in Lebanon in December 2014 for crossing into the country illegally with her new husband using forged identity cards.
“They showed me pictures of my ex-husband and asked me if I recognized him," she said. "It turns out I was married to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a shock to find out — seven years later — that I'd been married to the most dangerous man in the world."
Cassandra Vinograd is a Senior Writer and News Editor. Before joining NBC News, she worked as a London-based correspondent for The Associated Press and specialized in politics, foreign affairs and defense.
Vinograd previously worked as an editor for The Wall Street Journal in Brussels and London.
She has reported extensively from Afghanistan and on West Africa and the Middle East.