The Strategist

How ISIS recruits and helps its foreign fighters reach Syria & Iraq

03/09/2015 - 14:29

A peek into how ISIS, or more correctly Daesh, recruits its fighters and sex slaves “brides of Jihadists”

The Bard had once said “What’s in a name?” Well going by France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, quite a bit actually. ISIS, or the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ has been splattering itself all over the news lately with its shocking brutalities which only goes to highlight its desperation of trying to impose a dream of an Islamic caliphate.  

As pointed out by Laurent Fabius – France’s Foreign Minister, ISIS is a bit of a misnomer, for it tries to robe itself as being Islamic. The usage of this very word is a cunning means and source of confusion. It not only confuses the gullible victims but also misleads and clouds their sense of judgment. As Mr. Fabius point outs, the end result is that these poor individuals cannot distinguish between Islamists, Islam and Muslims. Further, he goes on to state, that although ISIS has projected itself as a state, it clearly and definitely is not. It is only a terrorist organization.


Thus, ISIS is a misnomer. The correct way of referring to this terrorist group would be ‘Daesh’. As per France24  the word Daesh, is an approximate acronym for ‘al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham’.

Despite its grotesque acts of terror, Daesh, it seems, has quite a fan following: in the last three years, more than 20,000 foreigners have joined its ranks in Syria and in Iraq. Of this group, around 4,000 are from Western Europe. It is estimated that 500-600 people from the UK have in various stages of their journey to join its ranks.

Question is - how does Daesh recruit? Is it possible to stereotype those who join their ranks? As per this BBC bulletin, two brothers aged 16 and 17 were headed to a “conflict zone”. In spite of the horrors of war and the reports of women being used as sex slaves, women “brides of Jihadists” still leave their home for foreign shores. Stereotyping the Daesh fighters and the ‘wanna-be’ brides have grown to be quite a challenge.

However, the Institute for Strategic Dialog (ISD) has got a few leads and insight into their mechanisms, thanks to various social platforms and online tracking methodologies. Daesh’s decentralized online presence is strong and it is uses this its advantage by providing money and dedicating time and energy into cultivating social bonds with individuals and in the process radicalizes them. Men and women recruiters in its rank, tweet, blog, communicate, and share their experiences, painting a rosy picture which is far from the brutalities and the savagery of war.

Because of the varied background of its recruiters, this multilingual fluid and fluent propaganda is used to target specific individuals. The propaganda is delivered through a culturally relevant online medium, which allows the free exchange of practical questions being asked and answered, in a way that is not verifiable to the individual being recruited.

Investigative research has however, found out that ‘offline network’ often are the spark that disseminate and propagate extremist ideologies. Typically, the offline network creates a spark of interest which the recruit feeds on his own through social platforms and is ultimately brain washed and helped to make the crossing into a war zone.

Daesh, it would seem has exploited the online social medium to gain robust fan following and thus ensure a strong recruitment strategy.