An Australian member of Islamic State (IS) has begged to come home, describing “rivers of blood” flowing inside the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate and a life of horror and misery.
Mahir Absar Alam, who was born in Sydney and went to high school in Loxton in country South Australia, urged Muslims around the world not to believe IS’s propaganda and to stay in their home countries.
He was captured with his Syrian wife and two children in March by Kurdish-led forces outside the village of Baghouz, the last hold-out of IS militants.
The 26-year-old former Swinburne University accounting student said he left Melbourne and went to Syria in July 2014, soon after IS’s leader proclaimed a new caliphate.
“It all started the day Abu Bakr al Baghdadi came on television and he was giving that speech in that [mosque] in Mosul and then we unfortunately took his call and came to here,” he said.
But his quest ended amid the fear and squalor of the caliphate’s retreat.
“You try to run but you just can’t … you look left and right and you don’t see nothing but death,” he said.
“You look forward, you die; you look backwards, you die; you look left and right, you die. You’re stuck.”
Accounting student among first foreign recruits
When Alam went to Syria to join the group, IS had already conquered Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.
It would shortly conquer towns in the country’s north, killing the men and enslaving women from the minority Yazidi community.
The group also began beheading western journalists and aid workers soon after Alam’s arrival, although he said he did not go to Iraq and had no role in IS’s well-publicised atrocities.
“People need to understand that we didn’t rape, we didn’t kill, I didn’t set anyone on fire,” he said.
Like many captured IS members, Alam said he did not fight for IS.
“They asked me to fight, yeah. They normally force people to fight but I really pushed it — I couldn’t fight,” he said.
“Everyone is saying they’re not a fighter … [but] I wasn’t an actual fighter.
“I’m stuck between all these people who are saying the same story, so I’m screwed now.”
Alam said instead he worked as a nurse at IS hospitals,
He also saw notorious Australian terrorists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohammed Elomar.
“I’ve seen Abu Zarqawi, which is Khaled Sharrouf, you see him and his kids in the hospital. You see a few other Aussies that come in … they have kids and they need treatment,” he said.
Alam said he witnessed horrible cases in the hospitals and described the brutality of life under IS.
“I’ve seen rivers of blood flow, I’ve seen … innocent women and children killed for nothing but going shopping, nothing but sitting at home trying to feed their family,” he said.
“Can you imagine that? One minute you’re sitting at home, the next minute you’ve lost a leg and an arm, you come out burnt. It’s something you can’t explain.”
Other recruits who have left IS or been captured have denounced it, saying they were misled by false promises in the group’s promotional material.
Alam had a similar message for any remaining supporters.
“Know that their propaganda’s wrong — they’ve never done anything decent for anyone, apart for themselves, apart for each other,” Alam said.
“So I’d tell them stay at home, stay at home, stay in your country.”