Western fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are reportedly pleading with their home country’s diplomats to come home as ISIS is pressed on several fronts.
Among those pleading to come home are Western citizens, including women, who moved to Iraq and Syria after being enthralled with online ISIS propaganda.
“They’ve got a feeling it’s not going so well,” France’s National Intelligence Director Dider le Bret told a recent security conference.
Western jihadis were once at the top of ISIS’s social strata, reportedly receiving free food and housing in the early days of the terrorist group. As the U.S.-led coalition, Russia, the Syrian Regime, and other rebel groups advance on ISIS, quality of life in ISIS held territory has rapidly diminished.
Western diplomats representing six countries in Turkey reported approximately 150 fighters have sought help in the last few months. Many of the defectors reportedly lie and say they were working in humanitarian aid which is difficult for the western diplomats to verify. In some cases the defectors will ask for a replacement passport, a tip to diplomats because ISIS is known to seize passports of its foreign fighters.
Many countries are conflicted between wanting to provide services for citizens that may be legitimate and preventing the next Paris style attack. Some of the attackers in Paris traveled to Iraq and Syria for training before returning with specific instructions to wreak havoc across Europe.
Complicating matters for diplomats and security officials is the accelerating stream of Western fighters seeking to flee ISIS as the terrorist group is likely to lose its “last remaining funnel to Europe” which borders Turkey. Turkey is the only entry point for Western fighters where they can conceivably contact their home country’s embassy to begin the process of trying to return home.
ISIS is reportedly aware of its foreign fighter attrition and has erected checkpoints around its capital city of Raqqa. The group has also publicized that defecting carries the penalty of death by beheading. One Father of a teenage girl who traveled to Syria told the Wall Street Journal his daughter had texted him “Father, help me.” When he inquired with authorities they told him there was little they could do if she did not make her own way to Turkey.
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