Apparently life with the Islamic State is not the bed of roses some thought it would be when they first signed up for it. Reports have circulated that some of the militants have become disillusioned with how things have been going, but the proof of that disillusionment has been seen more often in recent weeks.
Latest Islamic State Militant to Leave
Last week, a disillusioned former Islamic State fighter stole a memory stick with a plethora of information on it regarding approximately 22,000 Daesh (Islamic State) fighters, and gave it to Sky News, a British broadcaster, during a covert meeting in Turkey.
Monday, an American had been detained apparently trying to flee to Turkey, away from the Islamic State. CBS News reports he is in the custody of Kurdish military forces.
USA Today reported earlier today that they were “aware of reports” that a U.S. citizen had been captured by “peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.” That person, who was originally identified as Muhammad Jamal Amin by Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency, was recently identified by family members as Mohamed Jamal Khweis, in his twenties, from Alexendria, Virginia, NBC News reported.
Khweis apparently confused Turkish borders with peshmerga territory. He was detained by military forces after reportedly thought to be a suicide bomber. Reports are fuzzy whether he was captured or surrendered, but his surprise at hitting the wrong checkpoint does not rival his family’s surprise that he had ended up in the Middle East fighting for the Islamic State. “He doesn’t even speak Arabic. ISIS? I cannot believe this,” his uncle, Kamal Khweis, said.
His family believed he was on vacation in Europe and they had last been told that he was in Greece. He had allegedly traveled to Turkey and then to Syria, and had only been with the Islamic State group for two months when he decided he was not cut out for that life. When questioned by authorities, he told them he was from the United States and that his father is Palestinian and his mother is from Mosul.
Disillusionment Leading to Defecting, but Defecting is Dangerous
Defecting from the Islamic State group is not a new thing; hundreds have escaped in the last year or so. However, those who wish to flee the extremist group must be careful for the same reasons they want to flee — “ISIS wants to kill everyone who says no.” As shared with NPR just over a year ago by a young, terrified Syrian defector, if you disagree with their ideology you are considered “no longer a Muslim.” You’re either in or you’re out; and, if you’re out it’s certain death.
The NY Times reported what Dr. Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study for Radicalization, and professor of security studies at King’s College, documented in a recently published report on why defectors had left the Islamic State. Some of the disillusionment of former militants of the Islamic State group include its hostility to other Sunni rebel groups, psychological manipulation, favoritism and discrimination, plus random brutality against—and massacre of—civilians and hostages. And if you complain about the horrific killings (which includes men, women and children), you get killed also.
Another fighter who recently fled the Islamic State group told the NY Times how his views had changed. He saw a couple being stoned to death for adultery, and considered that just, but he did not approve of aid workers, journalists and other noncombatants being beheaded. That’s not all. Just two days ago, the Islamic State launched its most recent (but not its first) chemical weapons attack, killing a 3-year-old little girl and causing injury to over 600 others.
Most of the hundreds who have escaped the terrorist group are in hiding, for obvious reasons. But the “shininess is wearing off,” says Dr. Neumann, and 58 former Islamic State defectors have chosen to speak out by giving useful information and insight into the Islamic State for the report. Officials are hoping this information can be used to counteract the effects of the Islamic State’s effective media marketing campaigns, giving a more truthful, accurate depiction of what it’s really like inside the group.
If this latest defector from the grips of the Islamic State — an American from Virginia who fled after only two months — is any indication, it’s just one more person of the dozens who’ve seen how bad it really is on the inside with the terrorist group. There are still thousands who won’t be swayed and are willing to fight and die for this brutal ideology they believe in; however, for those who can be reached before it’s too late, officials will continue to use whatever resources are available to prevent them from joining the Islamic State.
[Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images]