Doctor Tareq Kamleh, who left his native Australia to join the Islamic State in Syria, has written a letter to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency denying that he was “brainwashed” and vowing never to return to Australia.
He has also denied claims that he had inappropriate relations with patients before becoming a devout Islamist and accused Australia of having “blood on its hands” for airstrikes against the terrorist group.
Kamleh, who has adopted the ISIS-style nom de guerre “Abu Yousef al-Australie,” wrote in a letter posted to the medium justpaste.it that he was not “brainwashed” into joining the terrorist group: “I made a very well educated and calculated decision to come here, it did not involve any brainwashing.” He justifies his work for the group as being a humanitarian effort necessary for the poor who live in Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital.” “I have come here as there are locals suffering from normal medical conditions despite being surrounded by war, with an overt lack of qualified medical care,” he writes, “Is it not my humanitarian duty to help these children also?!…or only kids with white skin and blue passports?!”
He blames “Coalition drone strikes” almost exclusively for the suffering of those in Islamic State lands. “Running the paediatric component of the casualties, my favourite time was telling the mum of a six-year-old girl that the fact that her [the girl’s] brains were on her face meant that she was dead,” he writes, “To answer her screams of ‘why their house,’ I really had no answer.”
As for the crimes of the Islamic State itself, he writes that he has “no input or responsibility over the political or military actions of the state,” refusing to make a judgment on the behavior of Islamic State terrorists: “If they are correct I wish them progression, if they are not, this is between them and God.”
He concludes, stating that he “never” intends to return to Australia, where he would face a maximum of 25 years in prison for joining the terrorist cult.
Australia’s The Sunday Times reports that Kamleh’s family has avoided making any public remarks about the letter or their son, noting that they “avoided speaking to The Sunday Times outside their home.”
Kamleh first rose to prominence as the star of a propaganda video for the Islamic State released in April, in which he appears caring for infants in what appears to be an extremely sophisticated medical facility in Raqqa, Syria. “I was very happy that I made the decision, and I was a little bit saddened at how long I’d delayed it. I wish I had come a lot sooner,” he says in the video of his new life.
Following the release of the video, former colleagues began speaking of Kamleh’s life before the Islamic State. He was described as a “sleazeball” with a reputation for promiscuity and illegal medical practices, such as using the medical records of female patients to force them into sex with him. He was also allegedly the recipient of a “golden speculum” award at Royal Adelaide Hospital, given to the colleague known to have slept with the most coworkers in any given year.
Australia is currently fighting an influx of propaganda like the Kamleh video intended to entice Australian nationals to leave their country and join the jihad. It is believed that around 100 people with Australian citizenship are fighting alongside the Islamic State as of April 2015. The government has taken to cracking down on Islamist preachers known to proselytize about the virtues of jihad, as well as addressing the challenge of Australian medical staff joining ISIS specifically. In response to the Kamleh video, Australian Attorney General George Brandis released a statement through his office calling the video “a vile attempt by ISIL to try to entice Australians and other Westerners to put themselves and others at risk,” and warned medical staff targeted by the video that “There are safer, legal ways of helping the people affected by these conflicts than travelling overseas to fight or support a terrorist organisation.”