Al Arabiya was granted access to what remains of the al-Baghouz camp, ISIS’s last stronghold that fell in March to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
According to SDF sources, more than 4,000 ISIS fighters are now in SDF prisons, 1,000 of whom are foreigners.
Al Arabiya’s Rola al-Khatib was able to conduct a series of interviews with several of these detainees.
Bin Laden al-Italy (the Italian Bin Laden) is one of them.
He describes how he joined ISIS, entered Syria via Turkey, trained, lived and fought with the group, as well as the last days in al-Baghouz before its fall.
“I was living a normal life. Then I started seeing ISIS all over the news and YouTube. I started searching for their videos. Honestly, they gave the impression that they’ll help people and that they’re the good against the evil. I’m a person who likes to experiment, and I thought maybe I’ll become a hero,” he reveals in the interview.
Al-Italy says he entered Syria through Turkey. “It was very easy to cross the border.”
Does this mean the Turkish authorities were knowingly letting young men cross into Syria? Al-Italy believes so. “Thousands came in through Turkey… It’s obvious they knew,” he says, adding that Turkey also served as a base for a lot of coordination work for ISIS militants.
In retrospect, al-Italy now believes ISIS was “using young men that have good intentions and want an Islamic state. Because a lot of the ones who come from Europe, don’t really understand religion.”
The last days of the “caliphate” in al-Baghouz cemented his disillusion. ISIS leaders “secured themselves and their families, and they ran away and left the young men,” he recalls. “They used us and ran away.”