Why are ISIS Fighters Surrendering?

 In Foreign

At least a thousand ISIS fighters have reportedly surrendered to the Kurdish Peshmerga in the wake of the fall of Hawija.  But all is not perfect in that scenario, as the men who pledged to “fight or die” aren’t all particularly happy at giving up the fight. They say their “governors” told them to turn themselves in.

Some of the destruction on ISIS territories. (Screenshot)

“For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in to Kurdish officials at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday.

The fight for Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, took nine months, and by comparison, relatively few Islamic State fighters surrendered. Tal Afar fell next, and more quickly, in only 11 days. Some 500 fighters surrendered there.” Ron Nordland, NYT

Kurdish officers stated that ISIS put up “no” resistance in Hawija other than booby traps and bombs – which begs the question…what is going on? Even the Kurds have been wondering why such a large amount of men surrendered. Some of those who have surrendered say they only joined ISIS for the money- $100 per month.

Many of the people in the displaced persons camps, such as Dibaga in Iraqi Kurdistan, are said to be ISIS fighters, which has raised a “cloud of suspicion” in the camps.

D.Parvaz at Al-Jazeera noted in an article on October 3,

That’s when you will hear why people seem relatively calm: They already feel they have plenty of ISIL operatives – sleeper cells – among them. You could call it paranoia, or justifiable suspicion.

“They’re dressed normal, you know, not like Daesh,” said one man, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL. “And not just Arabs – Kurds too.”

One NGO worker told me: “Yes, they are already here – many”, adding that she and her colleagues figure 70 percent of one camp for internally displace[d] people is made up of ISIL fighters.

“But half of them are children,” I replied.

“From the teenagers and older – they’re Daesh. My staff does not want to work there when it’s dark. They don’t feel safe.” 

Nordman’s article mentioned that one man,  Maytham Muhammed Mohemin, did not have a beard, and claimed that he was “only 21” and couldn’t “grow it yet.”  He claimed that his superiors told the men to turn  themselves in to the Kurds because they had a reputation for just taking prisoners and not killing them.

“I believe if the governors are telling us to surrender, it really means that this is the end.”  Mohemin

But the “end” of ISIS’ territory held does not mean the end of ISIS.  The people with that same mindset spread around the world is not a comforting thought.


Featured photo – ISIS fighter surrenders in Mosul – screenshot from RUDAW, Kurdish media in a Twitter post.

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