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Working for the Islamic State

Working for the Islamic State features twenty-nine year old Abu Hashim, an imprisoned former ISIS driver interviewed in Baghdad by Anne Speckhard in January of 2018. This counter narrative video clip is produced by the ICSVE team and underlines the costs of getting involved with ISIS.

Abu Hashim begins the video telling how he delivered bomb-rigged vehicles for ISIS, after which they were used in suicide attacks. He coldly states that he did it for the money and didn’t care about the carnage they caused. After driving for ISIS more than once, he became trapped into working further for them as they threatened to expose him if he tried to stop. Each of the four times that Abu Hashim delivered vehicles he was paid approximately $125, money he used to buy things he needed for living.  He says he kept his activities secret from his girlfriend who would have left him had she known.

Abu Hashim tried to join the flow of refugees going to Germany but didn’t manage it and was arrested instead. While he states that he didn’t concern himself with the explosions and deaths caused by the car bombs he delivered, he later admits that he did suffer serious posttraumatic effects. He was racked with guilt and obsessive thoughts about what had happened, was unable to sleep and lost weight. When he did sleep, he would wake choking and terrified. Filled with remorse, Abu Hashim fears that Allah will not forgive him.

He now refers to ISIS as murderers and warns the viewer not to join as the result is only killing, blood and bombing, saying that they were incapable of creating a real state. He asks the viewer if he is okay with killing, and warns again not to join—the result will be either prison or death.

Timed transcript of Working for the Islamic State video:

Working for the Islamic State

0:01     I transfer [a bomb laden car] and they give me money for it,

0:03     150,OOO Iraqi dinars [approximately $125].

0:05     I transfer a car, from Alyusufiyah to Albaya’ [in Baghdad].

0:08     Yes, it’s a car bomb.

0:10     [I did this] 4 times.

0:11     I deliver it to another person.

0:12     I only deliver it and that’s it.

0:13     I don’t care [about the results].

0:15     I got scared, but it’s all to make a living,

0:17     because of our poor condition.

0:19     I’m telling you that it’s all for the money,

0:21     because I don’t have any.

0:23     [They paid me] 150,000 Iraqi dinars [approximately $125].

0:24     I buy things with them such as clothes,

0:27     and for my needs.

0:29     ABU HASHIM

ISIS Driver

I’m 29. I’m from Al Yusufiyah.

0:32     I’m still single.

0:33     I was a bus driver.

0:36     I studied in school up to the 9thgrade,

0:39     but I left to make a living.

0:41     We live on my father’s pension.

0:43     It’s not that I’m forced to do it but,

0:45     I took [money] from them once or twice, so I have to keep working for them.

0:48     They told that me that we will expose you and tell everybody what you are.

0:52     I wanted to stop.

0:53     I had the chance to go to Germany to get away from this.

0:58     The plan was to travel to Germany in 2015 [but],

1:01     I didn’t make it and got arrested.

1:04     I was arrested by the security forces.

1:05     I wasn’t at home [when they arrested me].

1:06     [After the suicide attacks] I couldn’t sleep.

1:08     I kept thinking about it, [but] there was nothing I could do.

1:11     I think about it day and night.

1:12     Even now when I sleep, sometimes I wake up because of it.

1:16     Even now, look at me, I’ve grown skinny because of how much I blame myself.

1:20     Sometimes I wake up frightened because of these things.

1:23     Sometimes I choke at night. I wake up.

1:25     Not in a dream, but when I remember this and what has happened,

1:28     I regret this.

1:29     This is what I am afraid of.

1:30     [ISIS are] murderers.

1:31     They kill people.

1:34     They don’t have a happy life,

1:36     only killing, blood and bombing.

1:40     We don’t know what is their ideology.

1:42     What is their goal? We don’t know.

1:43     I don’t like them.

1:44     I don’t like them, because they’re all bombings and oppression.

1:51     [My girlfriend] doesn’t know [about my involvement].

1:52     If she knew, she wouldn’t stay with me.

1:53     I haven’t seen her since [my arrest].

1:54     No, [my mother] didn’t come at all. I don’t have any visitations.

1:58     I advise [to all youth] that this path is wrong.

2:00     This will only result in prison, sorrow, tiredness and destruction.

2:05     Nothing is worth it.

2:06     I ended up in prison and now I’m good for nothing.

2:08     What state [did ISIS make]? Is there even a state? What is their state?

2:10     I’m telling you that it’s worthless.

2:12     The result will either be prison or death. It’s worthless [to join ISIS].

2:15     How are they good?

2:17     Are you ok with killing?

2:19     No one will support this state.

2:21     It is a false state. It’s not right.

2:22     This path is wrong. It’s worthless.

2:26     The Truth Behind the Islamic State

2:29     Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

2:36     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

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