They tried to feed him, give him water, and even take him to a mosque to prove that they were not infidels, but an ISIS jihadist captured in the Syrian border town of Kobani insisted his Kurdish captors kill him anyway, so as to join his fellow terrorists in “paradise.”
In a fascinating story by the Agence France-Presse, a Kurdish civilian who worked as a grocer in Kobani, Cuneyt Hemo, tells the story of his first encounter with an Islamic State terrorist, and one of the first known accounts of civilian Kurds and jihadists crossing paths near the Turkish border. Hemo explains that the jihadist, a 20-year-old from Azerbaijan, “begged us to kill him so he could go to paradise and be rewarded,” and refused to accept food or other aid. Kurdish soldiers ultimately killed the man, but not before questioning him on his motives and attempting to prove to him that the Kurds he considered “infidels” were also Muslims.
“We asked him why the jihadists were attacking us. He replied that we were kuffar (the infidels) and they had received the order to put us on the path of true Islam,” said Hemo, adding that they tried to prove to him that Kurds were, in fact, Muslims, and that there was no logic to his quest to be killed. YPG (the male Kurdish army) soldiers took him to a mosque, but, Hemo recalls, “We tried in vain to help him find reason. But he did not want to know anything.”
The story highlights the distorted psychology of Islamic State jihadists and how their will to die influences their activity. They cannot be brought to submission by threats of death, as they actively seek to be killed in the hands of “infidels.” There is only one widely-accepted exception to this rule: dying at the hands of a woman, which Islamic State fighters believe will cause them to forfeit any rewards they may receive in the afterlife.
The Kurdish military, the Peshmerga, have exploited this fear of being killed by a woman to their benefit. The YPJ– the all-female units of the Peshmerga, have become indispensable in the fight against the Islamic State. In Kobani specifically, the YPJ units are led by a soldier named Mayssa Abdo, who is widely renowned for her military prowess and boasts soldiers in her unit capable of killing dozens of Islamic State jihadists in minimal time. The YPJ have been acclaimed for their work in Iraq and the interior of Syria, as Kurdish soldiers attempt to take advantage of US-led airstrikes to improve their ground operation.