Ebrahim B finally woke up to the horrific reality of life in Isis in August last year. Locked in a blood-smeared cell in one the terror organisation’s “execution centres” somewhere in Syria, the 26-year-old German Tunisian from Wolfsburg was forced to listen to the sound of a fellow prisoner being decapitated.
“It was like the sound of a cat being run over,” he recalled. Later his captors dumped the mutilated corpse of his headless prison neighbour in his cell. The severed head lay on top of the torso. Like Ebrahim B, the unfortunate prisoner had been suspected of spying against Isis.
Ebrahim B was in line for similar treatment. But, miraculously, he escaped. He fled back to Germany where he had been recruited as an enthusiastic new Isis fighter only months earlier and surrendered himself to the authorities. Today, he will appear before a court in the German town of Celle to face charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation.
“I prefer jail in Germany to ‘freedom’ in Syria,” Ebrahim B told Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung earlier this month in the only interview he has given from jail. “Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam,” he insisted. Ebrahim B has pledged to tell all about his Isis ordeal this week.
In Germany alone some 700 young people are estimated to have left the country to join the organisation. “The whole of Europe has been waiting for the returnee who goes to the media and de-mystifies the so-called Holy War,” said Professor Peter Neumann of the centre for the study of political violence at King’s College London.
Ebrahim B’s story is typical of many young disaffected German Muslims who have gone to join Isis. His Tunisian parents came to Wolfsburg in the 1970s to work for Volkswagen. When he was accepted at a Wolfsburg Gymnasium, the German equivalent of grammar school, he hoped for a dream career.
But Ebrahim B failed to make the grade. He ended up at a bottom-of-the-ladder state school. No devout Muslim, he took drugs, smoked, drank alcohol and ended up becoming a massage therapist. But he also joined Germany’s Social Democratic Party – a fact which later, in a roundabout way, helped him escape.
Wolfsburg is notorious for producing Isis recruits. Ebrahim B was just one of the many to be recruited in the city by Yassin Ousaiffi, a man who currently works in Syria as an Isis Sharia law “judge”. At the time, Ousaiffi was Isis’s recruitment officer at Wolfsburg’s Ditib Mosque.
Ebrahim B describes him as the “false preacher”. He claims he was lured into joining Isis with the promise of an expensive car and four wives. “To be honest – who wouldn’t want four wives?” he asked in his interview from jail. He added: “If I had been asked to join a Jamaican rock band or Hells Angel’s in America, I would have gone along with them.”
Like many others before and since, Ebrahim B went to Syria via Turkey in the early summer of last year. There, he was picked up by the jihadists at the long and porous Turkish border and taken to a camp for new recruits in the city of Jarabulus. But before he started training, Isis leaders became suspicious of his Social Democrat Party membership and, fearing he was a spy, took him away for interrogation.
From his Isis cell, Ebrahim B heard his fellow prisoner being decapitated. He claims he was only spared execution himself because Ousaiffi, his Wolfsburg recruitment officer, spoke up for him. He claims that when he was asked to take an injured Isis fighter to Turkey to obtain hospital treatment, he managed to escape. Ebrahim B says he wants to use his trial to set an example and tell the world how he was duped by Isis. “I was conned,” he says.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies