Surpise! Joining ISIS Isn’t All It’s Cracked Be.

Foreign fighters are flocking to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State. But what's been glorified in the recruitment process doesn't always live up to their expectations.

Larger Crop for India ISIS
Larger Crop for India ISIS

Someone's got to clean toilets and fetch water for Islamic State militants, but a would-be Indian jihadi who traveled all the way to Iraq to fight for the armed group came home in disappointment after discovering that he'd be a glorified janitor rather than a glorified fighter.

Someone’s got to clean toilets and fetch water for Islamic State militants, but a would-be Indian jihadi who traveled all the way to Iraq to fight for the armed group came home in disappointment after discovering that he’d be a glorified janitor rather than a glorified fighter.

Areeb Majeed, a 23-year-old engineering student from Mumbai who joined the self-proclaimed Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, with three friends last May, on Friday returned home, where he was immediately detained by Indian authorities on terrorism-related charges. Islamist militants crossing the border from neighboring Pakistan have created headaches for the Indian government, which has become more concerned about the threat posed by homegrown militants, who are harder to identify and apprehend.

Majeed and three friends, all from the Mumbai area, were radicalized online and given the contact information of a man named Abu Ali, whom they called once they landed in Mosul. After being picked up by Islamic State militants near a mosque there, Majeed and his friends were driven out of the city to an unidentified location and given a 25-day training session, which Majeed said was conducted in English.

He told investigators that he and his friends were trained on AK-47s and other weapons, but that the Sunni militant group considers Indians physically weak and not up to the task of combat. It didn’t take long for Majeed to realize that he had been sold on a glorified version of the mission and that, for him, jihad would amount to little more than a humdrum routine of cleaning and helping those doing the actual fighting.

According to the Times of India, officials in India quoted Majeed as saying that “there was neither a holy war, nor any of the preachings in the holy book were followed. ISIS fighters raped many a woman there.”

Already disillusioned by the caliphate lifestyle, Majeed decided to return home after suffering a bullet wound that went untreated for three days. It is still unclear how he suffered from a gunshot wound if he was working as a janitor. “Only after I begged them, I was taken to a hospital,” Majeed reportedly told investigators. “I was treating myself, but the injury was worsening as there was no proper medication or food available in the camps.”

He called his father, a doctor in the Mumbai area, from Turkey in mid-November and asked for help. His father reported the phone call to India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and other government agencies, which then helped arrange Majeed’s flight home. Indian investigators are still looking for details on what drew him to join the Islamist group wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.

His radicalization last spring made national news in India. NIA is continuing an investigation into the whereabouts of the three other young men who fled India with Majeed last spring.

Before leaving for Iraq, Majeed told his family that he cried for them because they lived “too luxurious of a lifestyle.” But back in Mumbai only to face terrorism charges, and with his life as an Islamic State water boy in the rearview mirror, that old cushy lifestyle probably isn’t looking too bad.

Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA

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