Almost 60 Islamic State defectors have spoken out against the caliphate and Western governments should do more to incentivize former fighters to speak out, according to a new report by the International Center for the Study for Radicalization.
According to the New York Times, about 20,000 foreigners have joined jihadist groups in the Middle East over the last two years. About a quarter of those are Europeans, and it is estimated that between 25% and 40% have gone back to Europe.
The new report says that most of the defectors have gone into hiding to escape reprisal from ISIS but also to avoid imprisonment in the countries to which they are returning. According to the report, 58 defectors from Europe and Australia have now publicly spoken about their experience.
In the reasons listed as to why they became disenchanted with the jihadist group, most defectors mention the violence toward other Muslims. Two defectors who left after finding out they had been selected to be suicide bombers told the BBC that the “brutality of IS terrifies everyone,” referring to ISIS (aka Islamic State, IS, ISIL, and Daesh).
A Syrian man who had initially joined a rebel group fighting the Assad regime joined ISIS when his whole tribe pledged allegiance. He told the BBC that the first stage of the ISIS indoctrination was a course on the Sharia.
“Not the principles of Islam, the principles of the Islamic State,” the man said. “So they teach you the Islam they want.”
He said ISIS tactics boiled down to 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.”
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