‘They’re worse than animals’: Indonesians return from ISIS with tales of horror and disappointment

Indonesian authorities estimate that around 600 of the country’s citizens have gone to Syria to fight for the terrorist organization ISIS. Many of those have already returned to Indonesia and some are now sharing their stories of bitter disappointment and horror in the hopes of dissuading others from making the same mistake they did.

A group of Indonesians who were repatriated back from Iraq in August after spending a significant time living in an ISIS camp in Raqqa recently took part in the testimonial video above, created by Pusat Media Damai (Peace Media Center) and featured on the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) website. In the video, they all agree that they had been deceived by the promises ISIS had made online.

“I did not suspect how bad it was after I got to Syria, But once in Syria, at the women’s dormitory, their behavior… Ya Allah, I can say they are worse than animals,” one woman, Naila, declares in the video.

A man in the video named Heru says that ISIS soldiers were not exactly the holy warriors he was expecting. He said they often fought amongst themselves and about petty issues like thugs. He also said they engaged in some truly horrific behavior.

Although Heru says he had never seen an execution himself, he saw something nightmarish happen to one man’s body after he was killed. “The head was made into a toy for children, to be kicked around. To do something like that to somebody who is already dead… It makes me nauseous,” Heru says.

Another former ISIS supporter, Djoko, says he deeply regretted bringing his family, including his children, along with him.

“They said there would be a free school, but once we got there they’d just order (our children) to get married. Many proposed to marry my child and said, ‘let me know when she starts menstruating,’” Djoko said.

Another recently repatriated Indonesian, Difansa, said that, to ISIS, human life is very cheap and everybody outside of the organization is considered a kafir (heretic) who should be killed. She said that every Indonesian who intends to go fight for ISIS should abandon their quest.

“The people who have not been there are lucky, it is all a deception,” Difansa said. “I’m incredibly disappointed.”

Like other Indonesians who have returned to their homeland after fighting for ISIS, the group that returned in August are said to be under close watch by the government.

Will their testimony do any good at preventing more Indonesians from making the perilous journey to join ISIS? Well, it’s far from the first time Indonesians have come back from Iraq and Syria filled with disappointment, but hopefully this video will be able reach more people.

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