Ex-Prisoner: ‘Pay Attention, Europe! ISIS Is Everywhere'

Translated from Dutch.

From Algemeen Dagblad:
He survived prisons of IS: almost a year full of daily torture. Once in safety in Germany, Masoud Aqil was stunned that he again encountered IS people. “Europe must not be naïve.”

The appointment for the interview actually stood for a month ago. Aqil told him at the last minute: “I was depressed, I lost hope.” He was upset about the blazing violence in northern Syria, where the Turkish army started an attack on the Kurds in the Afrin region.

“We have defeated IS together with the West and thought it would be over. But then came the attack on Afrin … Turkey attacks us, along with radical Islamic groups. Our allies now let us down. A new IS will soon emerge from this attack.”

Menace

A new IS. It is a menace for Aqil (24 years) from the Kurdish city of Qamislo in northern Syria. It is December 2014 when the journalist falls in their hands. Aqil, together with his colleague, is on his way to an interview when they meet an unexpected roadblock along the way. The masked and armed men turned out to be jihadists. They kidnap the two journalists and take them into the caliphate territory for a year of horrific torture.

“They tied my hands with a piece of rope on my back and hoisted me up on that rope until my feet came off the ground. The rope cuts deep into my wrists, my hands become numb and the pain in my shoulders is so intense that I am afraid my arms break. Questions, accusations, scoldings and punches alternate. My eyes are in my eyes, and I hope that I do not lose consciousness. The only thing I can still think of is when my feet will hit the ground again and the torture and pain end,” Aqil writes in his book, published in the Netherlands, The Boy Who Is Fighting the IS.

Aqil spends 280 days in IS prisons, including in Raqqa, the capital of the caliphate. In miserable conditions, with daily humiliations. Guarded by jihadists from all parts of the world, who perform mock and real executions with a smile on their face.

Book

Why is he held by IS? Because he is a Kurd, and a journalist and simply because IS has the power to do what it wants. In that prison he promises himself: if I ever get out of this, I will fight IS.

Now Masoud Aqil is in a hotel in Amsterdam. He is paying a short visit to the Netherlands to promote his book. A book in which he describes how he, after his release in a prisoner’s exchange, fled to Germany and, once in Europe in 2016, looked around in bewilderment: he met former Syrian IS members who still preach violent jihad. “A man who proudly told me in a prison that he had given the IS coordinates for a particular attack, I found back in Europe as an imam, spreading his message.”

He sees it as his chance to fight against his former torturers. Aqil tracks IS sympathizers who pretend to be refugees in Europe via social media and hands them over to the German police. Only a few are arrested for questioning. “It is baffling that so many individuals that pose a risk, still roam freely throughout Europe.” Aqil thought of freedom to flee, but he still does not feel safe, he writes, and now he does not want to disclose where he currently lives and works.

Are you still searching for IS sympathizers in Europe on social media?

“No, not anymore. After their capital Raqqa was recaptured, they became silent on social media. They no longer associate themselves with IS. But of course there are IS refugees in Europe. The Turkish president Erdogan has given them passage on purpose, he wanted radicals to escape to Europe. It is his weapon to exert influence on Europe.”

Many European IS people are stuck in the Kurdish region in Syria. The women and children in camps, the men in prisons. What should happen to them?

“I find that very difficult. We, the Kurds, want to get rid of them, we do not accept those people. Let Europe take responsibility and try them here. But I also understand the problem: those people now say that they are grateful if they can return, but if we believe that we are naïve. They are IS criminals. And how does it feel if you live here next to someone who has been with IS? That could also happen to me…”

You write in your book that Europe must be vigilant for radical Islam, to which you include salafists. The mayor of Amsterdam, Jozias van Aartsen, said last week that he wants to reach out to salafist youngsters in the city. How do you view that?

“Reach out to them? How? Salafists see us as infidels. They obey not the law, but the Sharia. Let them become moderate before we reach out to them. Countries such as Saudi Arabia are trying here to spread these radical thoughts, to stimulate them, by giving money to such mosques. Europe must be careful!”

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