Disillusion fuels defections from Islamic State

Khadiga Bibi Dawood mother of Muhammad Haseeb and Maryam Siddiqui.
Khadiga Bibi Dawood mother of Muhammad Haseeb and Maryam Siddiqui.
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Dozens of defectors have deserted Islamic State, shattering the group’s self-proclaimed image of a “jihadist utopia”, according to a new report.

Since January last year at least 58 individuals have left the group and spoken publicly - and the number is growing, researchers based in London found.

Some fled after they were disappointed by the “quality of life” in territory controlled by IS and realised that the image of luxury goods and cars that lured them to join in the first place had failed to materialise.

Defectors were also found to have left after being outraged with the group’s brutality and disillusioned by corruption in the ranks.

The study, published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) based at King’s College London, said reports of defections have been “sufficiently frequent to shatter IS’s image as a united, cohesive and ideologically committed organisation”.

It added: “They demonstrate that IS is not the jihadist utopia that the group’s videos promise; and that many of its own fighters have deep concerns about the group’s strategy and tactics.”

In a sign of IS’s global recruitment strategy, defectors represented 17 different countries, including two from Britain.

Most felt the group - also known as Isil - had not lived up to their expectations, while four narratives emerging from their stories were singled out in the report.

They were:

:: In fighting - Defectors criticised IS’s involvement in fighting against other Sunni rebels, while there were also accusations that IS had failed to confront the Assad regime in Syria.

:: Brutality against Muslims - Many complained about atrocities and the killing of innocent civilians, although brutality was not a “universal concern” but “caused outrage mostly when its victims were fellow Sunnis”.

:: Corruption - Most incidents involved individual commanders mistreating their fighters and favouring some over others but corruption was not seen as “systemic”.

:: Quality of life - A “small but significant” number of the defectors expressed disappointment about living conditions. They “quickly realised that none of the luxury goods and cars that they had been promised would materialise”, while Westerners found it hard to cope with shortages of electricity and basic goods. There were also suggestions that the experience of combat failed to meet fighters’ expectations of “action and heroism”, with one describing his duties as “dull”.

The news comes after the Dawood family of nine from Bradford were reported to have fled to Syria in June of this year.