Iraq News
Terrorism

'The game is over', says captured ISIS fighter

By Hassan al-Obaidi in Baghdad

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Members of the Iraqi forces advance in an area south of Anah in the vast western province of Anbar bordering Syria, on September 20th, as they continue the operation to capture the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' group's last strongholds in the province. [Stringer/AFP]

Three years after joining the ranks of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Anbar province, a recently captured fighter reveals in an exclusive interview with Diyaruna his disillusionment with the group.

Barakat Hussein Mahmoud, 24, was arrested about two months ago in the desert area of Kilo 160, west of Ramadi, following an attack by Iraqi troops on an ISIS site that killed many of the group's elements and caused others to flee.

Mahmoud's fellow ISIS fighters left him behind after he suffered an injury to his leg in the attack.

After receiving treatment, he was transferred to a prison in Ramadi where he is awaiting his sentencing.

From his high-security cell in Ramadi, Mahmoud tells Diyaruna he has committed many crimes during his time with ISIS, and that he deserves whichever sentence he gets, as he has brought destruction on many Iraqi families.

He also reveals that ISIS has lost its base of supporters and that it is unable to recruit new members.

Diyaruna: Tell us about yourself.

Barakat Hussein Mahmoud: I am 24 years old, from Ramadi. I was a student at the physics department at the [Anbar University] College of Science until 2014 and was getting ready to graduate.

My life was good in every way, but the devil, stupidity and naivete joined forces against me and got me where I am today.

Diyaruna: How did you end up here?

Mahmoud: It was through bad friends who convinced me that taking up arms is the only solution to end the injustice [...].

I enlisted in a formation known as 'Ahrar al-Hawz', not knowing that it was actually part of ISIS.

This was at the beginning of February 2014, and from then on, I worked my way up within the group until I found myself receiving an attractive salary from ISIS.

I was involved in killing innocent people, all under revolutionary slogans at first, which then turned into religious slogans calling others as infidels [kuffars], ultimately calling Sunnis themselves infidels.

Diyaruna: Who was your supervisor?

Mahmoud: There were many, all of them criminals. I was the only one who went to university. The others [...] had many psychological issues. They felt inferior, even to other fighters, and anybody who saw them among themselves would certainly not believe the movies they make.

Some of them killed their own father or brother under the pretext of al-Walaa wal-Baraa [loyalty and disavowal], and others used cannabis and only cared about power, killing, women and money, and nothing else.

Diyaruna: Did you ever see al-Baghdadi?

Mahmoud: No, not once. But we got instructions from him from time to time through our supervisors, all calling on us to continue fighting and killing, which he saw as the key to victory.

The most important thing to [al-Baghdadi] is to instill fear of the group in the hearts of the people, and therefore he put an emphasis on killing those who are disobedient in public squares in order to terrorise others.

Diyaruna: What crimes have you committed?

Mahmoud: There were many crimes that I committed collectively with others who were with me. We killed Sunni Iraqis -- who ISIS claimed it was coming to protect -- more than we killed others.

They used to tell us that it is worthier to kill Sunnis who disobey or oppose the group than to kill our enemies, since they are an internal risk threatening the caliphate.

We killed entire families.

Diyaruna: Did you believe in ISIS's self-described caliphate?

Mahmoud: Initially, yes. I considered it the best option to put an end to the status quo and to our problems with the government in Baghdad. But then I discovered them [ISIS] for what they really were.

They were liars and nothing more. It was all just slogans. They wanted power more than anything else, and they hid one thing while displaying piety and devoutness.

But they cannot judge anyone, because they are merciless savages and I was one of them. I became that way, without mercy or any human feeling.

Diyaruna: Did you try to flee the group?

Mahmoud: I tried several times, but I had already sunk too deep, so leaving them meant that I would be arrested or even killed, if not by Iraqi troops then by the local population that is angry with us.

So I tried to escape to Syria and from there to Turkey, but I did not succeed before I was arrested by the Iraqi army because of the injury to my leg, which was cut off, as you can see now.

Diyaruna: Has any of your relatives visited you in prison?

Mahmoud: No. Even though they all know I have been arrested, they do not want anyone to even know that this criminal was their relative.

Therefore, I have not asked anyone to send them any message or news from me.

I believe, in fact, I am sure, that they would not find any honour in me now, especially my brothers, as one of them is working as a police officer.

Diyaruna: Do you have any regrets?

Mahmoud: It is way too late now to talk of regret. I am waiting to be executed. I think this is very fair because of what I have done. [...]

We are shrinking and fading out, and the group's elements are getting killed or running away.

There are no longer any volunteers or recruits coming to us.

I personally have confessed everything and I am waiting for my punishment.

I hope that my punishment in this world will be a way for me to avoid going to hell on the Day of Resurrection.

Diyaruna: Do you have any final words for those who still follow ISIS's path?

Mahmoud: The game is over and we have lost, and we have to pay the price.

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