Not everyone who travels to Syria or Iraq have intentions to join the military ranks of the armed forces of the Islamic State (ISIS). Jasmine Opperman, the director of the Terror and Analysis Consortium, told VOC News that while recruitment is taking place in South Africa, ISIS has focused their efforts on reeling in the support from medical practitioners and other professionals who can provide services.
“You find that people who are providing humanitarian services will go through formal and recognised structures, to contribute and make a difference to the lives of people in a war zone. However, the fundamental question to answer is what is the difference between those people and others wanting to travel to Syria? It began with a political motivation against the Assad government, a primary driving force. However, this has shifted over the last 18 months. There has been an increase in the attachment to the ISIS ideology with a smaller focus on the political aspects,” Opperman explained.
Opperman claims that many people travel to Syria on the false notion that they will be contributing to an international cause in support of the international Ummah.
The threat of ISIS in South Africa stretches far beyond the Muslim community and fears the recruitment strategies of the group is being underestimated.
Opperman said the initial motives of people to travel to Syria have changed completely over time.
“You start getting propaganda campaigns about how good doctors, nurses are being taken care of. There is a very set strategy by ISIS. In Raqqa there is a hospital taking care of injured ISIS soldiers. So, people’s minds are being set over a period of time,” Opperman explained.
Opperman reiterates that ISIS is not a “Muslim” problem and does not only affect the Muslim community.
“There is simply no relevance of ISIS to the Islamic faith. However, ISIS considers itself as the great redeemer. You will have people with criminal records, a bad history or awaiting court trials and by simply joining ISIS, they are being forgiven and given a whole new life. These are not necessarily only people from Muslim families. It is everyone in South Africa that is left vulnerable to the ISIS propaganda campaign,” Opperman added.
“Our biggest risk that we are confronted with in South Africa at this time is our limited understanding and knowledge of ISIS. It is very easy to call them mad men. I want emphasise that these are people who have a vision and an ideology in place with time to achieve that. Their ideology is all geared toward one goal, Armageddon, the final fight against the believers and non-believers.” VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)