Articles

This former ISIS fighter from New York explains why he quit after only 3 days

A former Islamic State militant recently spoke with NBC news about his experience fighting with the group in Syria — and why he surrendered after just three days on the frontlines.


Photo: Youtube.com

The man, a 24-year-old single father and college dropout who traveled from New York back to his native Turkey, told NBC what has become a familiar story. Socially isolated and lacking meaning in his life, he was seduced by the jihadis' promise of a salary, a house, and a wife.

"My life was hard and nobody liked me," the man, who insisted on anonymity, said while crying. "I didn't have many friends. I was on the internet a lot and playing games."

This is a common profile among those recruited by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, who are often young men (and women) seeking purpose and identity. They are drawn to ISIS' promise of community, along with the glory of potential martyrdom. ISIS' inclusive rhetoric, combined with its social-media prowess, has allowed the group to recruit more foreigners to its ranks than any other modern jihadist group.

Firsthand accounts of the militants' brutality from those who have fought with ISIS, such as the one given by the Turkish-American recruit, are still relatively rare, even though an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters have joined the group.

"They told us, 'When you capture someone, you will behead them,'" he said. "But as for me, I have never even beheaded a chicken … It is not easy … I can't do that."

He said he was also instructed to throw homosexuals off of tall buildings and kill female adulterers. He said he decided to leave ISIS after an airstrike killed six of his fellow fighters in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad.

"I got scared because in my whole life I hadn't seen anything like this," he told NBC. "And since I was scared, I threw my pistol away and my legs couldn't hold me."

Photo: Youtube.com

The online radicalization of Muslims has become a security threat for the West: An estimated 4,000 ISIS recruits come from Western countries, and foreigners now make up at least half of ISIS' fighting force, The New York Times reported in April.

Many disgruntled recruits have tried to return to their home country after traveling to join ISIS and finding that life with the group is less glamorous than advertised, The Independent reported.

"I've done hardly anything but hand out clothes and food," a French recruit wrote in a letter home obtained by Le Figaro. "I've also cleaned weapons and moved the bodies of killed fighters. Winter is beginning. It's starting to get tough."

The man interviewed by NBC may have escaped the Islamic State. But the interview was conducted in a Syrian prison where he was being held captive by Kurdish forces.

He will only be free in death, the ex-fighter told reporters.

"They burn your life, they leave nothing," he said. "I can't do anything now. If I go to them [ISIS], they will kill me. If I go to Turkey, they will arrest me. If I stay here, I will go to prison. I have nothing. The only escape for me is death."

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won't fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It's Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they're pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there's one complaint common across the military, it's that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It's problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

'Operation Cure Boredom' is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it's a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin's 1990-1994 enlistment in the world's best Air Force.

This chapter, called "Guest on the Range," is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

The top 6 reasons people decide to join the infantry

Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.

You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There's an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it's time to go back to school — or does it?

Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 US conflicts that would (probably) make terrible video games

When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you'll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it's fun. Other times, they'll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that's fun, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Tactical

How to start a fire with only one hand

Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.

It gets cold out there at night, so it's important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you've been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.

Keep reading... Show less