skip to Main Content

The Sword of the Islamic State

The Sword of the Islamic State features thirty-three-year-old Abu Said, a Syrian, defected ISIS commander interviewed in November 2015 in southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla.It was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and our ICSVE team. This counter narrative features the ways in which ISIS reaches foreign recruits over the Internet and convinces them through lies to travel to the battleground.

Abu Said confirms what has been reported by those studying ISIS documents and practices, that the group was training and then sending Europeans in a reverse migration, back to their countries of origins to plan attacks there. Abu Said states that those who decided to travel back shave their beards to try to blend back in as they transit from Syria and Iraq back into Europe via Turkey.  He also notes how porous the Syrian/Turkish border was at that time and how easily ISIS cadres can cross into Turkey.

Abu Said explains that the [ISIS] sheikhs convince their students like magicians. He states that those who return to attack at home have become convinced by ISIS that they are serving the greater good, when in fact they are deforming the image and truth of their religion as well as hurting other Muslims.

Abu Said believes that Islam will only ultimately be elevated with education, rather than

by the brutal force, killings and stealing in which ISIS engages. He states that, “The real jihad is elevating the nation of Islam with knowledge, advancements and civilization” and that one should not impose one’s interpretations of Islam on others. “There’s a difference between a culture of force and the force of a culture,” he states.

Abu Said warns others not to join ISIS, stating that they will be deceived, that they will kill and get killed and harm Islam, all while serving other agendas.

Discussion Questions: 

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe Abu Said is telling the truth about his experiences inside ISIS?

How do you think ISIS teachers “brainwash” their new recruits?

How might taking part in ISIS actions harm Islam?

What do you think of forcing people to comply to Islam?

What are the possible “other” agendas one might be serving if he joins ISIS or any terrorist group?

Timed transcript of A Baghdad Bombing by the Islamic Statevideo:

0:04     In the name of Allah the most Gracious, the most Merciful and blessings to the Prophet.

0:12     Regarding foreign fighters,

0:17     they would come to Syria for six months to attend training camp.

0:22     Abu Said

Former ISIS Commander

They were recruited online. They were deceived.

0:26     They come to Syria and join ISIS. Then ISIS trains them.

0:31     ISIS leadership would say, ‘If this foreign figher is sent back to his home country,

0:38     he’s be more useful there than here.’

0:46     You can very easily cross the border back and forth between Syria to Turkey.

0:53     So it’s easy for them to go back home, simply by shaving their beards and wearing jeans.

1:04     They got back to looking like Europeans again.

1:10     In regard to the foreign fighters, I believe they have a hand in these [terror] events [in Europe].

1:23     A lot of these foreign fighters fought in Syria and then went back to their home countries.

1:30     So these foreign fighters who went back still believe in ISIS ideology.

1:38     I’m not going to say he’s a criminal or a murderer.

1:42     But he thinks if he does [a terrorist act], then it’s for the greater good of Islam.

1:48     But they don’t know that by doing this, they are actually hurting Islam and Muslims.

2:10 [ISIS] sheikhs convince you like magicians.

2:19     ISIS says [the foreign fighters] reverse migrate from the land of Islam to the land of the infidels.

2:29     They do these acts as part of agendas that ultimately hurt Islam and Muslims.

2:49     Because raising up the nation of Islam is not by force, not by killings and stealing,

3:04     not by imposing your opinion on others with the excuse that you’re enforcing Islam.

3:15     No. You elevate our nation [of Islam] with education.

3:19     We are the nation of knowledge. Science came from us.

3:25     The real jihad is elevating the nation of Islam with knowledge, advancements and civilization.

3:34     There’s a difference between a culture of force and the force of a culture.

3:40     There’s a huge difference.

3:42     We want all young Muslims to see the force of our culture and civilization –

3:48     not the culture of force.

3:52     By coming to Syria, joining ISIS and getting brainwashed, you kill and are killed.

4:00     That doesn’t benefit the nation of Islam at all.

4:07     Regarding the young Muslim men in Europe and Muslim men in the world in general,

4:13     If you’re thinking about joining ISIS and coming to Syria,

4:22     my brotherly advice is not to come.

4:27     Because you come from Europe convinced you’re coming to fight jihad

4:32     but really you’re serving other agendas.

4:35     When you finally realize the truth and you try to leave,

4:38     you should understand that you’ll be killed in cold blood.

4:46     You can practice faith from anywhere.

4:48     Remember that Prophet Muhammad didn’t raise his sword for thirteen years.

4:55     He says true religion is advice.

4:57     On what grounds is ISIS raising its sword and proclaiming whatever it likes?

5:05     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

5:08     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

5:14     See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=81) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. 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. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Back To Top