It ain’t half cold here mum. My iPod has packed up. All I do is the washing-up.
Some of the messages sent home to France by disgruntled Isis volunteers sound like letters from homesick school-children. A number of young French men and women fighting or working for Isis in Iraq and Syria have appealed to relatives and lawyers to help them to come home.
A selection of their messages, leaked to the newspaper Le Figaro, contrast bizarrely with the image of implacable and hard-hearted jihad peddled by terror websites. “I’m fed up to the back teeth. My iPod no longer works out here. I have got to come home,” said a message from a French fighter in Syria.
Another disillusioned volunteer said: “I’m sick of it. They make me do the washing-up.” A third appealed for clemency from the French authorities, who have a policy of arresting returning jihadis. “I’ve done hardly anything but hand out clothes and food,” he said. “I’ve also cleaned weapons and moved the bodies of killed fighters . Winter is beginning. It’s starting to get tough.”
Over 1,100 young French people – many of them converts to Islam of French rather than Arab origin – are believed to have thrown in their lot with Isis or other jihadist groups. Over 260 are believed to be in Syria or Iraq. More than 100 have already returned. Of these, 76 have been arrested.
A group of French lawyers is working with relatives to try to ease the passage home of scores of other Isis recruits, according to Le Figaro. They have collected text messages and emails which suggest that many of the volunteers feel that they have been “cheated” into making the hazardous journey to the Middle East.
Some messages reveal a fear of death or injury. “They want to send me to the front but I don’t know how to fight,” one young man said. The reluctant jihadis find themselves trapped between fear of their comrades and what might happen if they return to France.
Any volunteer who shows signs of wanting to flee is beaten, or even executed, according to the legal group.
“We have made contacts with the police and judicial authorities [in France] but it’s a hyper-sensitive subject”, one lawyer said. “Everybody grasps that the longer these people stay out there, the more they become time bombs when they return.
“But no one wants the risk of having an official policy to encourage the disillusioned ones to come back. What if one of them was to be involved in a terrorist attack in France?”
Intelligence sources also said that the profile of British recruits, was “more interesting, because they tend to be better educated”.