Europeans who join Islamic State often commit the most violent atrocities in order to “prove themselves” to their commanders, a former prisoner has revealed.
The prisoner, who has only been named as Omar, had been held by the terror group for six months after being sentenced to death. He was held in a prison some 18 miles north of Aleppo in Syria, spending some time with Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, before staging a daring escape.
Goto was later murdered by the terror group.
Speaking to the Times, Omar said that when Westerners arrive to join Islamic State, they immediately go in at the lowest ranks and are treated as little more than cannon fodder. The senior ranks of the group are more likely to be made up of battle-hardened jihadists from Chechnya and East Africa, leaving the Europeans having to commit brutal violent acts in order to prove their worth.
“They [the foreign fighters] come expecting a heaven and when they see the reality they are shocked,” Omar said. “There is a hierarchy in Isis and the foreign fighters and the Syrians are at the bottom of it.”
Omar said that this hierarchy makes the foreign fighters the most brutal: “There are two ways to prove your allegiance to Isis: either by getting married or by carrying out the punishments. They were merciless — the foreign fighters and the Syrians treated us the worst because they are the lowest in Isis.”
Western fighters have been known to complain on social media about their mundane lives as they are made to perform menial tasks for more senior terrorists. One job where they can prove themselves, however, is in guarding prisoners. Although some complain that this involves little more than standing bored in a corridor, others use their it as an opportunity to brutally beat and torture their captives.
With many Western jihadists having never even held a gun before, they are virtually useless on the battlefield and are used either as cannon fodder or as suicide bombers to clear the way for more experienced fighters.
Omar eventually escaped his captors after audaciously slipping out of the main prison gates and mingling with crowds who had come to visit their condemned relatives.
“The day before, they had executed a fighter from Nusra Front. I knew then that they were definitely going to execute me too and that I had to get out.”
A month later, the prison was hit by a coalition airstrike that destroyed the whole complex. Although Omar lost many friends, he said he was not disheartened by the news.
“There was one prison guard who was a bastard, he gave the worst beatings. I heard he was killed in that bombing too. That was the only good thing.”