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'Jihad Isn't Romantic,' IS Militant Tells Wannabe Brides

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

"By Allah, stop this romanticism. Bury it in the cemetery of illusions!"

"By Allah, stop this romanticism. Bury it in the cemetery of illusions!"

A post slamming "jihadi brides" for romanticizing what it is like to live in territory in Syria and Iraq controlled by the militant group Islamic State (IS) has spread across Russian-speaking IS accounts on social media.

The post seems to have originated on July 14 on a now-deleted VKontakte account belonging to a North Caucasian IS militant who calls himself Djundullah, before being shared elsewhere.

"Auzubillah [may Allah preserve me] from reading on sisters' [social-media] pages, 'I miss Syria, I long for Syria,'" the post reads (below left).

"Do you actually imagine yourselves walking on the banks of the Euphrates with your husbands? By Allah, stop this romanticism. Bury it in the cemetery of illusions!"

The author of the post goes on to warn that any romantic illusions harbored by fighters' brides about life in IS-controlled Syria and Iraq will "be dispelled during the first bombardment."

"It's not the life that's described in [VKontakte] groups," the post adds. "You will certainly be tested here. And you will find out what a test is."

The post has been widely shared on VKontakte and Facebook and has attracted positive responses from a number of Russian-speaking IS militants, suggesting that many believe there is a difference between how IS propaganda portrays "jihad" and the reality of life in Syria, at least for women.

One militant, Abdurakhman ad-Daghestani, suggested that the post "was probably addressed to the female sex."

Another militant, whose VKontakte account has since been deleted, criticized the post, saying that "difficult days alternate with good ones. With difficulties comes ease. Don't make things harder for the sisters [female militants]."

Some female militants also agreed with the post's message.

"Harsh but accurate," was the comment of one female militant, Imara Khasanova, who lists her location as Aleppo on her VKontakte account.

The post is ostensibly intended to criticize women who fail to understand the realities of "jihad." But there is also a sense of bravado and machismo running through the post -- its author is keen to let others know just how tough things are for those brave militants who live in the "real world" of IS beyond the rose-tinted visions portrayed on social media.

Beyond that, the post is part of a growing trend among Russian-speaking militants of finding ways to talk about the difficulties they experience in Syria.

The trend suggests at least some young IS militants are finding it hard to cope with the realities of war, particularly with losing their close friends and fellow militants on the battlefield.

The post bluntly states that "hijra" -- an Arabic term meaning migration to lands under IS control -- and "jihad" are "not a romance."

"Rather, they are the severed limbs and the dead bodies of brothers who just a couple of hours ago were joking with you," the author of the post adds.

This development contrasts sharply with IS's official propaganda, which insists that militants who have undertaken "hijra" and are on the "path of Allah" are not supposed to feel fear or grief.

Despite the hardships of war, they are supposed to feel joy at being part of a historic battle against the "infidels" and the establishment of the "caliphate," IS's term for the lands under its control. Expressing grief is not something a "jihadi" is supposed to do.

But faced with what appear to be higher than usual losses recently on multiple fronts, including around Kobani in Syria and in Baiji in Iraq, Russian-speaking IS militants have increasingly begun to express their true feelings via their personal social-media accounts.

"When your closest brothers relinquish this world on the path of Allah, this world becomes so insignificant and pathetic," wrote one militant, a Kazakh named Artyom, on July 15.

"By Allah, even for a moment you don't want to remain in this world, and when you look at a brother who fell a martyr, you see the world in its true form and you realize its insignificance and you want to relinquish it as fast as possible."

Significantly, too, the tone of the post slamming fighters' brides for being "romantic" about joining IS also runs counter to the messages in Russian-language IS recruitment messaging aimed at women.

That messaging has increased recently, amid complaints from Russian-speaking IS militants that there are not enough potential brides for them in Syria.

The recruitment propaganda does admit that the "hijra" process itself is difficult and risky.

But it also encourages women to think of joining IS as a romantic endeavor, promising them "mujahedin [jihad fighters] as husbands, who are God-fearing and sincere."

And women joining IS will also be part of "important events in Islam," the propaganda messages say.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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