Islamic State defectors: Three case studies

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.Image copyrightAP
Image captionEscaping Islamic State poses great risks to disillusioned recruits, according to a new report

A new report has compiled cases of defectors from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group speaking to the media about their experience. You can read the full story here. Below are three case studies from the report.

Anonymous, Syria

This Syrian IS recruit initially joined an Islamist brigade of the Free Syrian Army to fight the Assad regime. Hetold the BBC that he went on to join IS when his whole tribe pledged allegiance to the group – and because he believed in creating an Islamic state.

His first orders, as an Isis fighter, were to attend a course on Sharia, or Islamic law. “Not the principles of Islam, the principles of the Islamic State. So they teach you the Islam they want,” he said.

“It appeals to the heart and not to the mind, so that your heart becomes impassioned with their words. This is the first stage. The second stage is military exercises, military training.”

But he became disillusioned by the “brutality” of the extremists and escaped to Turkey. He summed up the jihadists’ tactics like this: “If you’re against me, then you’ll be killed. If you’re with me, you work with me. You submit to my will and obey me, under my power in all matters.”

“Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed,” he said.

Usaid Barho, Syria

Usaid Barho was an ordinary Syrian teenager when civil war came to his hometown of Manjib, near Aleppo. At just 14, he was recruited by IS from a mosque in the town. He joined willingly, he told the New York Times. “I believed in Islam,” he said.

“They seduced us to join the caliphate,” he said in an interview. “They planted the idea in me that Shias are infidels and we had to kill them.

He said he was told Shia militants would come to rape his mother if he did not fight.

Being given a mission as a suicide bomber was the only way to escape, Usaid said, so he volunteered. Late last year, he approached the gate of a Shia mosque, unzipped his jacket to reveal a vest of explosives, and surrendered himself to the guards.

“I opened up my jacket and said, ‘I have a suicide vest, but I don’t want to blow myself up.’ ” The guards removed the vest and Usaid was taken away an interviewed by intelligence officers.

“Even if he was brought to court, we would be on his side, because he saved lives,” one of the officers said.

Abu Ibrahim, Westerner

Like thousands of others, Abu Ibrahim is a Westerner – it is not revealed from which country – who converted to Islam and was persuaded to travel to Syria by IS propaganda videos. But the reality did not match the high-production images he had witnessed online.

“A lot of people when they come, they have a lot of enthusiasm about what they’ve seen online or what they’ve seen on YouTube,” he told CBS. “They see it as something a lot grander than what the reality is. It’s not all military parades or it’s not all victories.”

During his six months with the militants he saw crucifixions and witnessed a couple being stoned to death for adultery. He escaped after realising he was not helping the people of Syria, he said.

“My main reason for leaving was that I felt that I wasn’t doing what I had initially come for and that’s to help in a humanitarian sense the people of Syria,” he told me. “It had become something else. So, therefore, no longer justified me being away from my family.”

But getting out was not easy, he said. “The restrictions on leaving made it feel a bit like a prison … Myself if I was caught I would probably be imprisoned and questioned.”


Categories: Arab World, Asia, Syria

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7 replies

  1. What ‘Anonymous, Syria’, said sounds pretty familiar. One only has to look at history to realize where he is coming from. Islam means total submission and that what he was required to do.

  2. What ‘Anonymous, Syria’, said sounds pretty familiar. One only has to look at history to realize where he is coming from. Islam means total submission and that was what he was required to do.

  3. Submission in Islam means to conquer the evil self in you and submit it to the will of God. Any one who has ever had to struggle with his own evil self knows that this is a very difficult and hard struggle. The name of this struggle in Islam is Jihad.
    All religions help human beings in this struggle. Religion has the power and strength to make this happen. Christianity, Judiaism, Hindu religion, Islam and all other major religions of the world ask thier followers to submit to the will of God, abandon thier own negative desires and become a decent human being.
    Like any other tool, religion in the hands of politicians leads to harm and injury. And this is also true of all religions.

  4. There is a problem with your understanding of jihad. It is said that only a leader can declare a jihad and no one embarks on it without the leader’s permission. If I am to submit to God, why do I need my leader’s permission since jihad is the struggle to rid one of his evil self?

  5. The post of CS of 21st Sept is excellent, about the greater Jihad. The lesser Jihad, requiring fighting, cannot be done without a leader. And Muslims do not have any proper leader to lead them into war(God forbids it).
    Also, important point to note is that according to the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, Imam Mahdi and Messiah will come in later days and he will (cancel) put an end to all fighting.
    Since a person claiming to be the Imam Mahdi and Messiah has appeared, he declared all war type Jihad as illegal (sinful act). He preached extensively against taking up any arms for any religious war. That is why, the ignorant non-Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Arab countries are highly against the Jama’at Ahmadiyah. People need to know such things in order to promote peace in the world.

  6. To Namelee: You are correct. If one wants to submit to God, he does not require permission from anyone else. And for the great effort of self reformation no one needs an outside permission. It is the struggle with one’s own self. There is no place in the Holy Quran, not a single word, where jihad has anything to do with a leader.
    These are rules which were formulated later by those who wanted to use religion for advancing their own territorial ambitions. Jihad as understood by the Muslims of today does not exist in the Holy Quran. Great majority of wars fought by the Muslims after the time of the Holy Prophet were not religious in nature. All religions built empires and Muslims did too.

  7. Ghulam Sarwar,
    It depends on your definition of ‘proper leader’. The heads of al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and such other groups are seen by their followers as their leaders. To that end, they can call for jihad and they do to the support of millions.
    You say that the promised mahdi and messiah on his coming was “to put an end to all fighting”. As “somebody claiming to be him has already appeared”, according to you, why have wars not ended? Mark you, he was not to declare wars illegal but to end them.Very many people have declared wars to be illegal.
    Of the two jihads, there are more emphases and examples of the ‘lesser’ one than the ‘greater’ version.

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