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Joining Islamic State for the Sake of Martyrdom

By Anne Speckhard, Ph.D.

Joining Islamic State for the Sake of Martyrdom is the 15th video clip in ICSVE’s Breaking the ISIS Brand–ISIS Cadres Counter-Narrative Project. Joining Islamic State for the Sake of Martyrdom is based on Anne Speckhard’s June 2017 prison interview in Baghdad of twenty-two-year-old, Iraqi ISIS defector Abu Salman. In this video clip Abu Salman tells how he followed his cousin and uncles into violent extremism and how he came to admire the act of “martyrdom” believing it would deliver him straight into Paradise where he would leave the temptations of this world behind. He tells about how ISIS organizes its battles, sending a line of would be suicide bombers in the front lines, “martyring” themselves rather than be killed or surrender, and notes that ISIS doesn’t care about them. He also speaks about how young the recruits were, reflecting on a 13-year-old who drowned in training. Abu Salman tells about how he came to believe that dying for ISIS as a “martyr” was the best outcome for him. Now, behind bars Abu Salman has had time to reflect and no longer believes the lies of ISIS. Disillusioned with the group, Abu Salman says he no longer believes them because there “is killing, slaughtering and imprisonment.” The video ends with a verse from the hadiths about the Khawarij, a renegade tribe that appeared in the first century of Islam during the crisis of leadership after Prophet Mohammad’s death. The verse appears to prophesy about their return in the End Times. The transcript of the video appears below and the video can be viewed here .

Title: Joining Islamic State for the Sake of Martyrdom

0:32     Abu Salman

ISIS Fighter



0:26     I heard about ISIS at first when they were located in Jazeera, near Huran valley.

0:33     My cousin had joined them a long time ago.

0:33     He is my friend for a long time.

0:38     He asked me to come with him to support Islam.

0:40     So, I agreed.

0:41     He told me that they are in Jazeera-Ramadi

0:45     and they are fighting fierce battles.

0:50     My uncles were Salafis since 1997.

0:53     [During the 2003 invasion] they [the American troops] surrounded him [my uncle]

0:57     and shot bullets at him. He did not surrender and blew himself up.

1:03     [I also joined] for the sake of martyrdom—to be  killed in the path of Allah.

1:09     If I wanted, I would make a martyrdom [suicide] operation, but I did not want to.

1:15     I am a fighter only.

1:18     [In the beginning], I joined a boot camp—running,  crawling and weapons training.

1:22     We were 60 [in the boot camp] ages 16, 17, 21 and 22-years-old.

1:28     We had one who was 13-years-old.

1:31     His name was Abd.

1:34     He was young. Unfortunately, he drowned during the training.

1:37     He was from the Levant.

1:43     [After we finished training] we swore allegiance.

1:45     Then we were put on posts in Jazeera,

1:50     in the line of fire.

1:51     [In the ISIS battles, the first line is made up of) the hard-core fighters [wearing suicide vests].

1:51     The second one are the fighters who make the attacks.

1:56     [ISIS] doesn’t care about the first line, whether they die or not.

2:02     The third line is booby-trapping.

2:04     The hard-core fighter attacks, but, if he becomes  stuck and there is no way out,

2:10     he would blow himself up.

2:19     Otherwise he would come back.

2:21     There are many [hard-core fighters]. Thousands, I would say.

2:26     They are Arabs from all over the Arab world.

2:30     There are Iraqis also.

2:32     The [suicide bombers] train separately.

2:36     They have old and young guys, 27-years-old and younger.

2:42     Some of the [foreign fighters] come with their families.

2:49     Some of them ask to marry an Iraqi woman.

2:54     If not, then there are sabaya.

2:59     They are in Mosul, Qa’im, Heet and Rutba.

3:04     They did not bring [sabaya] here.

3:10     They brought some [sabaya] to Fallujah, but here no —because of the intense fighting.

3:17     I saw Yazidi girls.

3:21    [ISIS] says this [taking a sex slave] is the religion.

3:25     If she [a potential joiner] comes to me.  I would take her to the media point.

3:31     Then she is taken to the shariah guy who will talk to her

3:34     about monotheism, Paradise and hell,

3:38     sects like Sunni and Shiite, sects who went astray and other things.

3:46     ISIS’s goal is to kill the Shiite and the Awakening (Sahwa),

3:51     and to kill whoever goes out of Islam.

3:55     Abu Anas was the religious guy.

3:56     He is from Ramadi and was a shariah student.

4:00     He made lessons explaining the sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) about Paradise.

4:05     He explained that this life is short and after this life there is Paradise

4:09     in which you live forever.

4:12     That is why I was so excited about Paradise

4:14     and because of the fear of hell fire.

4:18     I expected that if I died [fighting for ISIS] I will not suffer torture in hell and go to Paradise.

4:28     I would leave the temptations of this life behind.

4:34     Now I am not [still convinced in ISIS, because there  is] killing, slaughtering and imprisonment.

4:39     I left. I don’t have anything to do with them anymore.

4:43     Nu’aym ibn Hammad narrates in Al-Fitan that the 4th Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib said:

“When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet.  Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron.  They will have the State. They will fulfill neither covenant nor agreement.  They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves.  Thereafter, Allah will bring forth the Truth through whoever He wills.”

Narrated by Nu’aym ibn Hammad in Kitab Al-Fitan, Hadith no. 573.

5:26     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

5:29     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE)

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) where she heads the Breaking the ISIS Brand—ISIS Counter Narratives Project. She is the author of: Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS and coauthor of ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate; Undercover Jihadi; and Warrior Princess. Dr. Speckhard has interviewed nearly 500 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and many countries in Europe. 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 experts 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. Her publications are found here:

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