Nine days of indoctrination, together with two hundred more recruits coming from every part of the globe: from Belgium to Turkey, from Sweden to Mauritius (the converted Italians are estimated to be about fifty thousand). The beginning of the day is marked by the weapons: “They used Kalashnikov rifles to wake us up”, tells the young Ali. Breakfast consisted mainly in dates and was followed by sports training, swimming in the Euphrates river, jogging, and stretching. Then we moved on to the indoctrination courses. True brainwashing masked by the name of “religious doctrine and politics”. Ali, a French young man, is a former Isis militant. First he fled from the Old Continent in search of Islam, then from the horrors of a “faith” too distant from religion. He was converted in a Parisian jail where he gradually came to the decision to go to Syria and fight against the enemies of the Koran. Upon his arrival to the city, begin the first restrictions: they sequester his passport and make him undergo a two-days long interrogation.
Nine more days pass, all the same, before the final oath to Isis dictates and the following military training. We used to wake up at 4 a.m., pray, then go through a double training session and, at last, take a Koran class. In the afternoon we were trained to use weapons. There are not only adults and young men, but also children. Violence, weapons, and the Koran: the small ones are trained to use rifles and to sacrifice themselves when they hear the yell ”Allah u Akbar”. They prey and are indoctrinated by the terrorist ideology. Punched and kicked by those who train them, they do not cry, some of them even smile.
These young men know that the training is preparing them to become martyrs, a slap in the face of the childhood’s innocence. They are trained to cut away doll heads, so as to do the same to humans later. The father of one of them has said that he received death threats when he tried to prevent the recruitment of his thirteen-year old son. It is estimated that there are about two hundred thousand jihadist militants, fifty thousand of which in Syria alone.
Scenes like these can be observed every day in Raqqua, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic state. It was the first Syrian city to fall under the control of the so-called Syrian rebel forces in 2013. To celebrate their victory, they demolished the statue of the former Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad in the central square of the city. The same square is currently used by Isis militants for executions and for the exhibition of the cut-off heads of their enemies. The first measure they imposed onto the inhabitants of Raqqua was to practice religion rigorously.
After the training period, Ali is assigned to the Islamic police. A chore that consists in “monitoring citizens, fining, stopping the fights”. But the young man does not like the task. The scenario he describes is that of a welfare state: free medical care, three hundred thousand US dollars offered to purchase a house and a car, a minimum wage of $ 90. Although he is enjoying a comfortable life, he wants to escape because what he has seen disgusts him: a fourteen-years old boy slaughtered because he had not finished the prayer, brutal executions in the square inclusive of homosexuals being pushed down from the roofs of the tallest buildings. Men accused of witchcraft being beheaded with a sword and corpses left to rot in the street with label attached to them that explain the reasons of their execution. Every day the same images: death and prayers.
After the last prayer of the day, at 10 p.m., militants go to bed. Ali does not want to stay in Raqqua any longer. He wants to go back home, but is afraid of asking, afraid of being executed.
Unexpectedly, however, the caliphate grants him the opportunity to go back to Europe. They have even provided him with $500 for the purchase of the return flight. Now he is under special surveillance in a French prison, back in jail, this time charged with terrorism. His dream was to live in harmony with the precepts of Islam in the caliphate’s capital, but he found there only violence and barbarism. “They were not Muslims, a Muslim cannot commit such atrocities.” Many people do not trust him, yet he claims that it is all true. “What I saw in Syria is not religion, it is barbarism. I have not killed and I do not want to do so. Now I just want a normal life. I want to forget”.
Translated by Ecaterina Severin