The Helpers of the Islamic State Caliphate

111 – The Helpers Of The Islamic State Caliphate

by Anne Speckhard & Ardian Shajkovci

The Helpers of the Islamic State Caliphate is the 111th counter narrative video in the ICSVE Breaking the ISIS Brand series. This video features 29-year-old Belgian, Abu Usama al Belgique who was interviewed by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci in August of 2018 in a detention facility in northern Syria run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The video clip was video edited and produced by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team.

The Helpers of the Islamic State Caliphateis the 111th counter narrative video in the ICSVEBreaking the ISIS Brandseries. This video features 29-year-old Belgian, Abu Usama al Belgique, who was interviewed by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci in August of 2018 in a detention facility in northern Syria run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The video clip was video edited and produced by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. 

In this video, Abu Usama expresses his cynicism about the politics of terrorism and the “dirty wars” in Syria. He begins by telling about how ISIS barely opposed Bashar Assad’s army but instead pitted itself against the Free Syrian Army (FSA). “The majority of territory that ISIS took is from the Free Syria Army and from Jabhat al-Nusra,” he explains. “ISIS didn’t take nothing from regime Assad, only maybe some small things like the 17th Division and the airport of Tabqa.”

Abu Usama speaks of corruption, of how dirty deals were carried out by ISIS with its supposed enemies. “I know that ISIS sell oil and gas to regime of Assad,” he asserts. “When ISIS started the fight against the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al Nusra, it was peace between ISIS and the regime of Assad. And even the regime of Assad came with planes to help ISIS. The regime of Assad planes, they bomb the Free Syrian Army to help ISIS go forward. Regime of Assad helped ISIS get territory. That I speak with experience what I see,” Abu Usama states. 

Abu Usama further adds that it was, “Very strategic, [Assad] made air strikes on the Free Syrian Army that ISIS have big territory, to show to America, ‘If one day you’re going to come, you must start fight with ISIS, not with me.’ All of this is politics.”

Abu Usama condemns President Erdogan of Turkey  for supporting ISIS, “And then you have Turkey also playing, helping with munitions, helping with drones, helping with many stuff that go inside in ISIS. To fight who? The Kurds.”  He continues, “If you see ISIS attack the Kurds in Kobani, you have many [ISIS] people injured. They [ISIS] went to Turkey hospital, to Denizli, to Izmir, and Turkey closed its eyes for this. We call this help indirectly.”

“You see many corruption [in ISIS],” Abu Usama concludes after having escaped from the group.  While living in Vilvoorde, Belgium, Abu Usama followed Shariah4Belgium and believed that ISIS would build a good and just “Caliphate” and deliver a pure Islamic life, so he traveled to Syria to join them. Abu Usama is currently in a YPG prison and may not be allowed to return to Belgium. Now, with his experience inside the Caliphate, Abu Usama states, “I understand from my mistake that these people want only power. They have nothing to do with religion.” 

Having suffered under ISIS and having tried repeatedly to escape from them, Abu Usama ends the counter narrative video with chilling words, “These people like drinking blood then to kill innocent people.”

Discussion Questions:

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Abu Usama when he claims ISIS was being used by Bashar al Assad?

What would have been the Assad regime’s reasons for cooperating with ISIS?

Do you believe that Turkey aided ISIS fighters by providing them medical care inside Turkey without legal ramifications for being involved in a terrorist group?

Do you believe Turkey provided drones and munitions?

What would have been Turkish President Erdogan’s reasons for cooperating with ISIS?

Do you agree with Abu Usama’s conclusion that ISIS leaders simply wanted power?

Do you think its possible to build a just Islamic Caliphate? 

If it were to be just would it rely on terrorism and brutal tactics like ISIS used to create that Caliphate?

In this video, Abu Usama speaks about his cynicism about the politics of terrorism and the “dirty wars” in Syria. He begins by telling about how ISIS barely opposed Bashar Assad’s army but instead pitted itself against the Free Syrian Army. “The majority of territory that ISIS took is from the Free Syria Army and from Jabhat al-Nusra,” he explains. “ISIS didn’t take nothing from regime Assad, only maybe some small things like the 17th Division and the airport of Tabqa.”

Abu Usama speaks of corruption, of how dirty deals were carried out by ISIS with its supposed enemies. “I know that ISIS sell oil and gas to regime of Assad,” he asserts. “When start ISIS fight against the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al Nusra, it was peace between ISIS and the regime of Assad. And even the regime of Assad came with planes to help ISIS. The regime of Assad planes, they bomb the Free Syrian Army to help ISIS go forward. Regime of Assad helped ISIS get territory. That I speak with experience what I see,” Abu Usama states.

Abu Usama that it was, “Very strategic, [Assad] made air strikes on the Free Syrian Army that ISIS have big territory, to show to America, ‘If one day you’re going to come, you must start fight with ISIS, not with me.’ All of this is politics.”

Abu Usama condemns Erdogan as well for supporting ISIS, “And then you have Turkey also playing, helping with munitions, helping with drones, helping with many stuff that go inside in ISIS. To fight who? The Kurds.”  He continues, “If you see ISIS attack the Kurds in Kobani, you have many [ISIS] people injured. They [ISIS] went to Turkey hospital, to Denizli, to Izmir, and Turkey closed its eyes for this. We call this help indirectly.”

“You see many corruption [in ISIS],” Abu Usama concludes after having escaped from the group.  While living in Vilvoorde, Belgium Abu Usama had listened to Shariah4Belgium and began believing that ISIS would build a good and just “Caliphate” and deliver a pure Islamic life so he traveled to Syria to join them. Abu Usama is currently in YPG prison and may not be allowed to return to Belgium. Now with his experience inside the Caliphate, Abu Usama states, “I understand from my mistake that these people want only power. They have nothing to do with religion.”

Having suffered under ISIS and tried repeatedly to escape from them, Abu Usama ends his video with chilling words, “These people like drinking blood then to kill innocent people.”

Discussion Questions:

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Abu Usama when he claims ISIS was being used by Bashar al Assad?

What would have been Assad’s reasons for cooperating with ISIS?

Do you believe that Turkey aided ISIS fighters by providing them medical care inside Turkey without legal ramifications for being involved in a terrorist group?

Do you believe Turkey provided drones and munitions?

What would have been Erdogan’s reasons for cooperating with ISIS?

Do you agree with Abu Usama’s conclusion that ISIS leaders simply wanted power?

Do you think its possible to build a just Islamic Caliphate?

If it were to be just would it rely on terrorism and brutal tactics like ISIS used to create that Caliphate?

Transcript of The Helpers of the Islamic State Caliphate

ABU USAMA

al BELGIQUE

29-year-old Belgian

Former ISIS Soldier

The only time of ISIS was 2014. It was a big part of ISIS in Iraq and in Syria.

Because in Syria fighting against the Free Syrian Army, [ISIS] took all.

The majority of territory that ISIS took is from the Free Syria Army and from Jabhat al-Nusra.

ISIS didn’t take nothing from regime Assad,

only maybe some small things like the 17th Division and the airport of Tabqa.

ISIS started to lose the end 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. It was a very hard time of ISIS.

The corruption, they get contact with Assad and contact with Turkey.

I know that ISIS sell oil and gas to regime of Assad.

When start ISIS fight against the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al Nusra,

it was peace between ISIS and the regime of Assad.

And even the regime of Assad came with planes to help ISIS.

The regime of Assad planes, they bomb the Free Syrian Army to help ISIS go forward.

Regime of Assad helped ISIS get territory.

That I speak with experience what I see.

Very strategic, [Assad] made air strikes on the Free Syrian Army that ISIS have big territory,

to show to America, ‘If one day you’re going to come, you must start fight with ISIS, not with me.’

All of this is politics.

And then you have Turkey also playing, helping with munitions, helping with drones,

helping with many stuff that go inside in ISIS.

To fight who? The Kurds.

If you see ISIS attack the Kurds in Kobani, you have many [ISIS] people injured.

They [ISIS] went to Turkey hospital, to Denizli, to Izmir, and Turkey closed its eyes for this.

We call this help indirectly.

You see many corruption [in ISIS].

All this radical group, now I understand from my mistake

that these people want only power. 

They have nothing to do with religion.

These people like drinking blood then to kill innocent people.

About the authors:

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=101) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhard and on the ICSVE website http://www.icsve.org Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Ardian Shajkovci, Ph.D., is the Director of Research and a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). He has been collecting interviews with ISIS defectors and studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism as well as training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally. He has also been studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and how to rehabilitate them. He has conducted fieldwork in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, mostly recently in Jordan and Iraq. He has presented at professional conferences and published on the topic of radicalization and terrorism. He holds a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on Homeland Security Policy, from Walden University. He obtained his M.A. degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University and a B.A. degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Dominican University. He is also an adjunct professor teaching counterterrorism and CVE courses at Nichols College. 

Anne Speckhard

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and has also taught the Psychology of Terrorism for the Security Studies Department in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Dr. Speckhard has been working in the field of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1980’s and has extensive experience working in Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.