ER editor: this article was originally published on April 1, 2016 but remains highly relevant today. It was referenced in a recent article by Adam Garrie published here, ‘CONFIRMED: The Mastermind of Barcelona terrorist atrocity a DRUG TRAFFICKER’.
‘You even stop thinking of your own family’: meet the Isis fighters addicted to amphetamine
‘We would fight them, slaughter them,’ Aadheen told me. ‘The moment we take a pill we would stop thinking about anything.’ The pill he’s referring to is Captagon, an amphetamine that’s said to fuel some of the brutality associated with ISIS. In November last year, Turkish authorities seized 11 million Captagon pills on the Syrian border. In the same month, a Saudi prince was arrested after two tonnes of Captagon pills were found in cases being loaded onto a private jet. Aadheen is a former ISIS member; he’s now a drug addict in hiding.
We met late at night in a safe house arranged by his dealer, close to the Syrian border. Aadheen sat silently in the corner, gently rocking back and forth. He was waiting for his next fix. He spoke so softly at times it was impossible to believe this mild mannered, scrawny man could have been a killing machine. But he was.
Captagon is a small white pill that looks like paracetamol. It’s a mixture of an amphetamine called fenethylline, caffeine and other substances. When he takes it, Aadheen told me it can keep him awake for three days straight. When it’s in his system he feels nothing, he said. ‘You even stop thinking of your own family.’
Drugs and violence have a long association, but I wanted to know why he’d joined ISIS in the first place. How could someone affix themselves to a group that’s become synonymous with pure evil in the minds of the West? When I read about how ISIS recruits from Britain, much of the discussion focuses on ideology and the alienation which drives people into the Syrian conflict. And yet before the conflict, Aadheen was a moderate Muslim, in a country where his faith was not at odds with those around him. His reasons for joining seem more practical than ideological.
‘I was fighting with the Syrian army when ISIS took over the area,’ he said. ‘I joined them for my own protection and protection for my family.’ I’d heard similar tales from other former fighters who’d joined Islamist militia like ISIS or Nusra Front. Not one had told me they signed up because they shared the group’s ideology.
One other reason I heard over and over again was money. ‘ISIS pays $800 a month, Nusra Front $100,’ said another former recruit called Dabir…
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About the author
Rose Asani is a journalist based in the Middle East.