Caliphate Chapter 2: Recruitment | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)
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MR: ISIS continues to attract and recruit members. Just today, the US Secretary of Defense said upwards of 100 Americans are believed to be fighting for ISIS in the Middle East.
FR: The Canadian government has identified 30 Canadians now fighting in Syria and Iraq.
MR: Up to 100 Europeans who are part of this group.
FR: Three young girls believed to be on their way to join ISIS. Their families tonight pleading for them to come home, telling the girl‚Äôs mom is really worry.
Chapter 2, Recruitment. All right, take me back to the hotel.
RC: Yeah. So we‚Äôve been waiting there for almost two hours and then the guy that we‚Äôre going to call Abu Huseifa finally showed up.
Coffee, [inaudible] or two?
RC: And we sat down on the couch.
RC: Wait, where did you want him to sit? Here?
The room is a little echoey, so‚Ä¶
Well, as we sit down with him, can you just let me know what‚Äôs going on in your head, like what is it, sitting there in the hotel, you‚Äôre wanting to know?
RC: So if this guy is who he says is, then there‚Äôs an enormous amount that I think I can learn from him because I‚Äôve spent the better part of a year researching the very arm of ISIS that he claims to have belonged to. But before we can even get there I need to figure out is he for real.
RC: Can I ask your date of birth?
AH: Yeah. [bleep] 1994.
RC: And is it okay with you if we say that you‚Äôre from Canada but just‚Ä¶
RC:Whenever you‚Äôre talking to members of the Islamic State, and specifically Western recruits who have returned to their home countries, it‚Äôs almost impossible to fact check every statement that they say and that‚Äôs because these things happen in a part of the world and in a part of the Internet that are almost entirely sealed off.
RC: Can I ask what your parents do for a living?
AH: Yeah. My dad, he runs a restaurant and my mom does not work. She used to be an aesthetician.
RC: So what I‚Äôm trying to do is see if what he tells me matches up with the reporting I have done and with the pattern of behavior that we know is typical of recruits of this terrorist entity.
RC: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
AH: I‚Äôm the oldest. I have a younger brother and a sister that‚Äôs in the middle.
Can you just describe what your life was like growing up?
AH: It‚Äôd be pretty boring. Just a normal family. My dad would be at work most of the time, so I‚Äôd be with my mom.
RC: In many ways, his background is typical to so many others that I have spoken to. He was neither rich nor poor, he was from, basically, a middle-class background. He loved video games, Star Wars.
AH: Star Wars, I still am a big fan of it.
RC: He‚Äôs from a Pakistani immigrant household.
AH: I was a natural born Muslim. I was born into a Muslim family and I learned from my family the basics‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääthe prayers, the reading the Koran and everything.
RC: His family was not particularly religious, at least outwardly. His mother was not veiled, he had a younger sister, she too was not veiled.
RC: Did you feel treated badly as a Muslim? Did you feel, in your own experience here in Canada, that you had been humiliated or treated in some way that slighted you?
AH: Oh, no. That wasn‚Äôt it at all. I don‚Äôt think that was a factor at all, that I was persecuted back here in Canada because of my religion. My sister and my mom, they‚Äôve always been able to walk the streets safe, everyone‚Äôs really nice. My dad gets along with everyone that comes by to his restaurant and they‚Äôre living a pretty good life here, but me, on the other hand, I always wanted something bigger. I‚Äôve always wanted something‚Ä¶ Not something simple and boring.
RC: I think people imagine that these jihadists, because of the savagery of what this group ISIS has done, we assume that the people that they succeed in recruiting into this group must be very different from us, but in fact, it‚Äôs actually something that, in a way, is more spooky because it‚Äôs something that you recognize. For example, a young woman that I spent months profiling in Washington State.
MR: We‚Äôre talking about a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher in rural‚Ä¶
RC: A White, Christian girl. Her hobbies included mall walking and going to Taco Bell with her best friend and gossiping. Within a couple of months, she was ensnared by recruiters for the Islamic State.