‘My job was to look after the female captives. Every day, foreign fighters would be allowed in to take the ones they wanted.”
The story was told to journalists during an interview with a former female Islamic State (ISIS) recruit. The female “captives” were members of the Yazidi minority.
Foreign jihadists, many of them from Europe, in the fall of 2014 were given priority to rape the women kept as slaves. Women who escaped from Mosul in Iraq told similar tales to the BBC: “Foreign fighters usually chose first, then local leaders of [ISIS].”
Between 2014 and 2015 more than 5,000 Europeans joined ISIS and committed genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria and Iraq. They have not been prosecuted for these crimes. Like the Nazis of the 20th century, many European- born extremists joined zealously to murder, rape and commit genocide, and were given lax or non-existence sentences. Europe, once a breeding ground for fascism, has become an exporter of Islamist extremism that threatens itself and the world.
A 28-year-old German who joined ISIS returned to Germany and told investigators that although he joined the organization he had “stood on the side,” during executions. Investigators concluded he “credibly distanced himself from the terror organization.”
According to The Washington Post the man was one of more than 870 Germans who joined ISIS. He is also one of the 290 who returned from committing genocide in Iraq and Syria and have mostly gone back to living “normal” lives in Germany. Just like the Nazis who ran the gas chambers and then melted back into German society, the ISIS members have traveled a well-trodden trail from genocide to European life.
We are asked to suspend logic and judgment every time we approach the truth about European countries that are a breeding ground for mass murder. It’s “just a few” people who joined ISIS from Europe, right? Let’s recall some of what a few German ISIS recruits did. In Palmyra after it fell to ISIS in 2015, the German and other foreign volunteers lined up panicked hostages.
According to the ‘Post’ interview, “an Islamic State militant identified in German records as an Austrian, Mohamed Mahmoud, is among the first to open fire.” Then the German volunteer enters the frame, cocks a pistol, shouts “Allahu akbar” and a “muzzle flash can be seen.” Murder. Genocide. Zealous German and Austrian volunteers working together to murder indigenous people in Syria. We’ve heard some of this before. They did it in Poland. They did it in Ukraine. They did it in Italy last century.
The mass execution in Palmyra, carried out with zeal by European ISIS jihadists, was similar to the massacre of the Acqui Division on the island of Cephalonia in which 5,155 Italian POWs were massacred by the German Gebirgs-Division in 1943. The German officer who led the massacre, General Hubert Lanz, was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Nuremburg but was out by 1951 and lived a nice, full life until 1982, much like the current European ISIS murderers will.
In Sweden the BBC discovered the jihadist networks that led more than 300 Swedes to join ISIS. “I met a young woman in the basement of a building in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city,” writes the BBC reporter. The woman “recently returned from Raqqa in Syria, where her husband died fighting for the so-called Islamic State.” Joining ISIS, as with the young SS volunteers who joined the Nazis in the 1930s, at first seemed “appealing.” They also wanted to be martyrs and find “the fastest way to die and go to heaven.” And they participated in genocide. “She recalls some of the horrors she witnessed there. The sound of Yazidi women being raped in the room next to hers, offenders being lashed and executed.”
These aren’t merely horrors “witnessed,” they are horrors collaborated with. Like many of the European jihadists, the interviewee likely doesn’t mention her own role and her European citizen husband’s role in the rape and genocide of the indigenous Yazidi people.
Many Europeans who served in the German army during the Second World War similarly whitewashed their records. Kurt Waldheim, who went on to be president of Austria and UN secretary general, sought to hide the length of his service with the Germans in Yugoslavia and Greece. When in Greece he was stationed near the point of departure for Auschwitz of the Jewish community of Salonika. He admitted making “mistakes” in a letter published after his death. But he never admitted what he knew about the Holocaust.
The BBC asked a Swedish policeman in Gothenburg what has become of the hundreds of Swedes who aided in genocide in Syria and Iraq. “Well there is a number of 311 [who joined ISIS] or so but none who have come back have been arrested. I think our terrorism law is not functioning well enough.” So they went to commit genocide, mass murder and rape.
They enjoyed their time as modern-day colonialists in Syria and Iraq. Then they came back to Sweden and none were arrested. Neither were the 200 Swedish volunteers estimated to have served with the SS during the 1940s, such as SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans-Gosta Pehrsson.
In Denmark, which “spawned more foreign fighters per capita than almost anywhere else,” the authorities decided to reward citizens for their crimes. “Officials here are providing free psychological counseling while finding returnees jobs and spots in schools and universities,” The Washington Post reported in October of 2014. This was two months after thousands of Yazidis were gunned down and thrown into mass graves and thousands of women were sold into mass rape. One Danish interviewee told how he initially journeyed to Syria to fight alongside Syrian rebel group Ahar al-Sham against the regime of Bashar Assad. Eventually ISIS was more attractive. “You cannot believe everything you hear about Islamic State, there may be bad things but also good things,” he said. This man, who saw good things in the mass murder and rape of people in Iraq and Syria, has receive taxpayer assistance for classes “to enter engineering school.”
The fate of the Danish ISIS volunteers is similar to those 6,000 or more Danes who joined pro-Nazi units during the Holocaust. Some went to the 11th SS Volunteer Panzegrenadier Division Nordland, the Schalburg Corps, The Free Corps Denmark and the Danish People’s Defense, all of which supported the Nazis. Some of those Danes, such as Christian Peder Krussing, who served with the SS, received prison sentences of four years or less. It seems they didn’t receive taxpayer support for engineering degrees though.
The continent-wide shrugging of the shoulders as more than 5,000 European citizens joined ISIS between 2014 and 2016, some of them coming and going from Syria and Iraq several times with blood on their hands, is part of a continent-wide denial of reality that has existed since the Holocaust. There is an unwillingness in Europe to have a justice system designed to punish offenders. There is an unwillingness to have anger at the genocide that ISIS carried out. Many European countries committed crimes during the colonial era and then walked away from the colonies pretending nothing had happened, and their inability to confront history and the present has infected European bureaucrats.
While EU officials wag fingers at human rights violations in places like the Philippines, they refuse to address the problem at home. The continent has not only become a breeding ground for a new Nazism, which is Islamist jihadism, but has become an exporter of genocide and mass murder, much as it was from 1939-1945.
After the Holocaust the Allies attempted to mete out justice through war crimes trials. Today’s Western powers won’t put ISIS members on trial for crimes against humanity, because for the most part Western countries are also responsible for educating and enabling ISIS members to commit genocide. An ISIS member is safer walking the streets of Europe than walking the streets of Baghdad. Anjem Choudary, the imprisoned British preacher, was said by The Telegraph to have “links to 500 British Jihadists fighting with ISIS.” There is ample evidence that after 2015 Turkey stopped and deported numerous European-raised terrorists seeking to join ISIS, such as Adel Kermiche, the beheader of the Normandy priest, and Ibrahim El Bakraoui, the Brussels bomber. European states let them wander free until they killed innocents.
ISIS members used European and Western internet servers and chat rooms and social media to arrange volunteers and even to attempt to sell women. Men advertised women for sale on Whattsapp for $3,700, and on Telegram, where a “12-year-old virgin” was posted for sale. A German ISIS member named Abu Assad Almani posted a photo of women for sale for $8,000 in May of 2016. And no one in Europe has charged these men for crimes against humanity. They bragged of their crimes in the open and recruiters sent people back and forth.
European states must reassert their morals and begin war crimes trials for ISIS members. They must end the excuses of “we can’t stop individuals from leaving or our citizens from returning.” In many cases intelligence services tracked the movements of ISIS members.
If European states want to end the mass denial of their role in genocide in Iraq and Syria, and prevent terrorism that is increasingly returning to Europe and bubbling up from home-grown networks, they must institute harsh sentences and zero tolerance for extremism and Islamist intolerance.Follow the author @Sfrantzman