Investigations | 04 Feb 2015

The Islamic State [ISIS] offices receive dozens of fighter recruits every day. These offices scattered around the Syrian desert have recruited an estimated fifty thousand fighters to date, while counting no more than 13 thousand fighters, in the beginning of 2014.

Faith in ISIS

Abu Mohammed, a quadragenarian from the city of al-Bab near, says: "Most of foreigners and Arab non-Syrian fighters, joined the organization out of true conviction and belief in the militant group's ideology, according to my observations." The organization's extreme-right position and introduction of extremist ideas have helped it attract fierce fighters, according to Abu Mohammed, with the most ferocious among them forming the organization's backbone.

Abu Muhammad adds: "My Saudi neighbor in the city of al-Bab has actually coughed up more than $25 thousand Dollars, to manage to reach Syria after he sold everything he owned." This neighbor, according to Abu Muhammad, was well known for his extremist thought in Saudi Arabia. He worked hard to secure exit from his country, and paid large sums of money so he can reach the "land of jihad," as he likes to call it. "They believe they are buying paradise," says Abu Muhammad, who also says that the number of Syrians joining ISIS is daily increasing, too.

A Mujahid's Salary?

The organization offers decent salaries to the "mujahideen" in its ranks, in addition to health, food, heating, and housing compensations as well. ISIS has also extended large amounts through which it salvaged youth who otherwise had doors of work or travel shut closed in their faces.

Syrian fighters' salaries in the form of grants amounting to US $100 for bachelors, and an additional $100 compensation for a fighter's wife and children. As for foreign fighters, they receive twice the compensation, depending on their respective countries of origin. ISIS, additionally, offers assistance to its members wishing to marry, offering them with dowries and homes.

Fadi, from eastern Aleppo, says: "ISIS pays the dowry to any young man wishing to marry, they furnish his house, pay his rent, in addition to other things no Syrian could ever dream of during peacetime; let alone now, with the world turning its face away from Syrians." The organization confiscates the houses and properties of Free Syrian Army [FSA] elements, of people fleeing the country, or of state employees and those wanted. The organization's Office of Reconstruction and Housing then distributes this confiscated real estate among its members.

Fadi adds "The organization evacuated most employees from the Tishreen Dam housing project in Manbej, replacing them with its members. The same method was applied to the refugees in the al-Khafsheh Desalination Plants near Aleppo."

An organization member receives his salary immediately after joining. After two Shariah and one military courses, in addition to a month's stationing, specialists return to their work in state institutions (government offices): A teacher joins the Education Bureau, an architect the Services' Bureau, and a doctor the Health Bureau. In addition, fighters receive an additional premium—namely their shares in the spoils of wars. As for women, their role is limited to work in the "Ombudsman" bodies, which oversee the discipline of women in terms of clothing. They may also take watch at military checkpoints to help men in inspections; while the women's organization also works in some hospitals and clinics.

Adventures and Fame

ISIS has offered young people a shortcut, opening the doors of fame through adventures, battles, as well as positions. The majority of the organization's members previously lived in crushed, impoverished communities, were academic failures or never went to school at all, except for a few foreign celebrities who receive media focus and attention, or some arrivals from the Arab oil countries. According to Sheikh Hassan from Aleppo: "Someone who had hitherto been crushed, suddenly finds himself with absolute power, killing, imprisoning, and exercising considerable responsibilities that make it enjoyable to perform his duties which he, therefore, will perform in a barbaric manner!"

These then publish their news through "Twitter" exclusively, enjoying correspondence with militants around the world, inviting them to join the ranks of the organization. The organization's policy is to attract members and give them relative stability compared with others; with the idea of jihad taking over their minds.

Sectarianism and Loss of Hope...

Many former FSA members as well as Islamic battalions deserted their organizations, opting instead to join ISIS, despite previously not carrying any radical thought.

Abu Mahmud from Aleppo, a former fighter for the Tawhid Bridages, says: "I dropped my weapon after ISIS assumed control of this area. Some of my friends, on other hand, have joined its ranks on the basis that it is the only party capable of overthrowing Assad. This, in addition to backers' lack of supply with arms and ammunition, prompted most fighters to believe that the world wants Assad. Thus, joining the organization which was free from the West's constraints became a must, according to their views."

Abu Mahmud adds that many raids and battles fail due to interrupted supply and lack of military support; whereas ISIS provides arms, ammunition, and fighters as well as excellent support.

In addition to the loss of hope, many of the young people share a desire to end what they call the Shiite tide through the greater jihad. They therefore take up arms to fight the regime representing a different religious identity, as they view it.

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