The ISIS cult — much harder to leave than to join

The Associated Press reports: The man stands furtively on a street corner, his face masked by a hoodie, his tense eyes scanning the crowd for any hint of Islamic State militants.

He was one of them before he left Syria a year ago, and he is afraid.

Now he chain-smokes as he describes the indiscriminate killing, the abuse of female recruits, the discomfort of a life where meals were little more than bread and cheese or oil. He recounts the knife held to his throat by fellow fighters who demanded he recite a particular Quranic verse on Islamic warfare to prove himself.

“It was totally different from what they said jihad would be like,” said the man, Ghaith, who asked to be identified by his first name only for fear of being killed. Ghaith eventually surrendered to Syrian soldiers.

While foreigners from across the world have joined the Islamic State militant group, some find day-to-day life in Iraq or Syria much more austere and violent than they had expected. These disillusioned new recruits also soon discover that it is a lot harder to leave than to join. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the Islamic State group has killed 120 of its own members in the past six months, most of them foreign fighters hoping to return home. [Continue reading…]

There’s been a lot of talk among government officials and counter-terrorism experts on the need to challenge the ISIS ideology — an exercise that seems to express about as much realism as evangelical campaigns in favor of abstinence.

What would be much more constructive would be international coordination on the construction of viable pathways out of ISIS.

Those who have the courage to leave, need to be able to have some confidence that they still have a future.

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