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The Sabayah Of The Islamic State

The Sabayah of the Islamic State

Anne Speckhard & Ardian Shajkovci

The Sabayah of the Islamic State is the 61rst counter narrative video in the ICSVE Breaking the ISIS Brand series. This video features 19-year-old Syrian Ibn Ahmed, who was interviewed in November 2015, in southern Turkey, by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla. The video clip was video edited and produced by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team.

Ibn Ahmed begins his story by explaining, “I was working on a truck, delivering water, then the revolution began. After a couple of months, I came across the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They said they were the Free Syrian Army, but they were criminals. They stole my truck. I tried to find them but no one could help me.”

This situation created a deep vulnerability in Ibn Ahmed for when ISIS entered his areas. He recalls, “I went home. I was unemployed, under financial stress, and I went through a tough time for about 6-7 months. I started selling wares on the street—each piece for 10 Syrian lira. I did that for a while. Then ISIS came. They entered Deir ez-Zor.”

Ibn Ahmed explains how he would sit with his local sheik and discuss his situation, “I told him I was in a difficult situation with no income. I asked him to find a job for me. He asked to visit me at home. He came and had tea. After our meeting, he advised me to join ISIS. He said [ISIS] was righteous and would prevent injustice.” This sheik, apparently, like many other religious leaders at the time, had been coopted and fooled into believing that ISIS could build a true Islamic Caliphate.

“I went with him to go through the [ISIS] training,” Ibn Ahmed states. After going throughshariah and weapons training, Ibn Ahmed was assigned as a guard at the Conoco oil refinery, where 450 Yazidis and other women were imprisoned and systematically raped. “I remember they brought one woman from Raqqa, because her husband was working with the Syrian regime,” Ibn Ahmed recalls. “They went to her house and took her away from her children. They brought her to Conoco. Her father-in-law came to try and get her out. Of course, he was elderly. [When] he said that her husband was his son, they beheaded him.” Here, we have an example of ISIS punishing the wife, children and father of a Free Syrian Army fighter, versus the fighter himself.

“I saw how these women would cry,” Ibn Ahmed recounts, and continues, “They were far away from their children. One of them was nursing her son when they took the child from her. She didn’t know what happened to him.”

“That’s when I decided to leave [ISIS],” he explains. “I advised my friend that we should leave. [I said], ‘This isn’t Islam. This is not okay.’ I gave a smuggler money. He got us tickets to cross the border [to Turkey] safely, ” he explains.

“The farther from ISIS, the better,” Ibn Ahmed states. “We can sleep better [now] after the horrors that they committed.”

Ibn Ahmed warns others who may want to join ISIS: “Those who wish to come to ISIS should think about the rape and killing of the poor and the oppression [of the people]. If you think about leaving, they will kill you. Once you get into the sand, it’ll turn into quicksand. As soon as you’re in it, you drown. That’s why I wouldn’t advise anyone to come. No one should come, because once you join, you’ll have to kill and rape. It’s not an Islamic State. That’s what I’d say.” 

Discussion Questions: 

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Ibn Ahmed is who he says he is?

Why do you think Ibn Ahmed’s sheik advised him to join ISIS?

What were his needs that compelled him into joining?

Do you believe the stories of abuse that Ibn Ahmed is telling?

What do you think of the ISIS practice of executing fathers and taking their wives into captivity and raping them because their sons and husbands joined the Free Syrian Army?

Transcript of The Sabayah of the Islamic State

IBN AHMED

19-year-old Syrian 

I was working on a truck, delivering water, then the revolution began.

After a couple of months, I came across the Free Syrian Army.

They said they were the Free Syrian Army, but they were actually criminals.

They stole my truck. I tried to find them but no one could help me.

I went home. I was unemployed, under financial stress, 

and I went through a tough time for about 6-7 months.

I started selling wares on the street—each piece for 10 Syrian lira.

I did that for a while.

Then ISIS came. They entered Deir ez-Zor.

I liked to sit with [my religious leader]. 

I told him I was in a difficult situation with no income.

I asked him to find a job for me.

He asked to visit me at home.

He came and had tea. After our meeting, he advised me to join ISIS.

He said [ISIS] was righteous and would prevent injustice.

I went with him to go through the [ISIS] training. 

They took us to al Jafra. That’s where they trained us.

We arrived at al Jafra. They would wake us at 4 a.m. for the morning prayer.

After prayers, we would attend physical training. After that, we would have breakfast.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. we had weapons training

on [the heavy machine gun], rifles, bombs and things like that.

In the afternoon, we had religious classes until the evening.

So they made me a guard for thehisbah [religious police].

TEXT: Ibn Ahmed was assigned as a guard at the Conoco oil refinery where 450 Yazidis and other women were imprisoned and systematically raped. 

I remember they brought one woman from Raqqa,

because her husband was working with the Syrian regime.

They went to her house and took her away from her children. They brought her to Conoco.

Her father-in-law came to try and get her out. Of course, he was elderly.

[When] he said that her husband was his son, they beheaded him.

I saw how these women would cry. They were far away from their children.

One of them was nursing her son when they took the child from her.

She didn’t know what happened to him.

That’s when I decided to leave [ISIS].

I advised my friend that we should leave. [I said], ‘This isn’t Islam. This is not okay.’

I gave a smuggler money. He got us tickets to cross the border [to Turkey] safely.

The farther from ISIS, the better.

We can sleep better [now] after the horrors that they committed.

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Those who wish to come to ISIS should think about the rape and killing of the poor and the oppression [of the people].

If you think about leaving, they will kill you.

Once you get into the sand, it’ll turn into quicksand. As soon as you’re in it, you drown.

That’s why I wouldn’t advise anyone to come.

No one should come because once you join, you’ll have to kill and rape.

It’s not an Islamic State. That’s what I’d say.

 The Truth Behind the Islamic State

 Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, www.ICSVE.org

 See more at www.theRealJihad.org

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 https://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.

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