22-year-old Shabazz Suleman told Sky News about his time in the terrorist group.
He said he spent some time in Syria in 2014 “doing aid work,” but then crossed over again in 2015 while on a family holiday in Turkey. He was caught by Turkish authorities on the border and put in jail with dozens of IS fighters where he says he bowed to “peer pressure”.
He agreed to be part of a prisoner swap which the Turkish authorities had brokered with IS in exchange for Turkish hostages and has remained in IS territory for the past three years. He claimed that at the beginning he had been swayed by ISIS propaganda, calling it a “romantic jihad”, which was all about protecting civilians.
“It was there to defend the Syrians – honestly I came here for that first, but ISIS changed. Four or five months into ISIS I wanted to leave,” Suleman said. He admitted receiving weapons training early on and was sent to fight on the front line of the Iraqi border, although he claims he did not fire a single shot, having managed to avoid active combat. He claims to have spent some time in an ISIS jail in Raqqa after a failed escape attempt. After a month of imprisonment, he agreed stay with ISIS, but asked for a role that kept him away from the fighting.
He said he was transferred to the Military Police – part of the IS structure aimed at keeping order amongst the civilian population. But again Suleman insisted he was mostly office-bound, playing games on his laptop or on guard duty at checkpoints. Suleman spoke about how he’d gone into hiding to try to avoid fighting, sitting in various houses in Raqqa playing Grand Theft Auto or Metal Gear Solid on a PlayStation and having “a normal life in IS territory”.
He said he would ride his bicycle and see the bodies of those who had been crucified and hung around the notorious roundabout in the city centre.
Suleman is currently help up in a Free Syrian Army jail on the Turkish border, and seeks to return to UK.