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Buy the book on Amazon.comISIS Defectors

“Some stories deserve to be told. And some truth is more terrifying than any fiction. This book is both.” —Abigail Rodriguez, Documentary filmmaker and VP of Development, Outrun the Sun Productions

“Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla have given us one of the best—if not THE best—look into the twisted world of ISIS/Daesh, detailing the process of these interviewees’ recruitment, fighting, torture and brutality, eventual disillusionment and attempts at defection. It should be critical material for everyone responsible for addressing the threats posed by this group and its advocates; and important educational material for use in fighting against their efforts to recruit more vulnerable individuals to their cause. The authors are to be commended for their work.” —Dr. Alistair D. Edgar, Executive Director, Academic Council on the UN System, Associate Professor of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University

“In a world searching for answers to explain the ISIS phenomena, Anne Speckhard is a treasure trove of information. The insights she has gleaned from interviewing hundreds of terrorists and now this new body of work— thirty-two ISIS defectors/returnees reported upon here (collected with her research partner, Ahmet Yayla)—challenges some hard held assumptions about violent extremism and Islam. And puts us on the path to understanding the real motivations behind so many people joining the Islamic State.” —Jeff Swicord, Journalist, Voice of America Television

Anne Speckhard, the American psychologist and Ahmet Yayla, the Turkish police officer, are a unique research team; by collecting authentic defector voices they have exposed, like nobody before them, the moral depravity of the Daesh “Caliphate”. The damning evidence against the so-called “Islamic State” is here for all to see—I cannot think of a stronger counter-narrative.” —Prof. Em. Alex P. Schmid, Editor-in Chief, Perspectives on Terrorism

“Dr. Anne Speckhard is a rare gem. Her interviews of hundreds of former extremists proves that she knows how to listen, win trust, and report the truth. In her latest work with Dr. Ahmet Yayla, she moves beyond reporting to revelation, offering much-needed insight into the process of radicalization. This book is required reading for anyone interested in combatting the threats we face today.” —Farhana Qazi, Author, scholar, and award-winning speaker on conflicts in the Islamic world

“Dr. Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla finally rip the tawdry mask from the much- vaunted ISIS mystique. This is a bold, essential work of truth-telling.” —U.S. Ambassador Alberto Fernandez (Ret.), Former Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), U.S. State Department, Vice President Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

“I am deeply impressed with the investigation/report of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE)—ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of Confronting the Caliphate, and especially the dedication of Anne Speckhard and her research partner, Ahmet Yayla. Much needed fieldwork, and not without risk! The outcome of this research belongs, in my opinion, to the top caliber science in this segment that really matters; information that relevant organizations should get to work with.” —Stephen van den Bosch, Superintendent Dutch National Police, CVE Specialist

“I have worked with Anne Speckhard in the past, she never stops amazing me by her personality and dedication to expose hidden aspects in terrorists’ lives and how religious manipulation plays a majour role to utilize poverty, anger, hatred and failure, to create monsters who know nothing but killing and bombing innocents in the name of Allah. The disengament procedure, which Anne is utilizing, is a unique aspect that scratches the deep layers of the human soul to reject everything that contradicts the pure nature of this divine creation of God” —Sheik Ali, Islamic scholar and former al-Qaeda member.

“Great insights from courageous CVE work by Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. and Ahmet Yayla, Ph.D. on their ISIS Defectors Interviews Project. Their groundbreaking effort will open new doors to discredit the ISIS narrative through firsthand testimonials of those who were brave enough to expose the terrorist group for what it really is. I eagerly look forward to further application of their work.” —Michael A. Brown, Department of Homeland Security, Visiting Research Fellow at RAND Corporation

“If anyone is qualified to write on this subject it is Anne Speckhard. When you have read this book, as well as her others, you will almost be able to call yourself an expert on the subject. When Anne writes about a topic you will know that she has done her homework so thoroughly, right down to interviewing the most unlikely people, and placing herself in potentially dangerous situations. When you have read ISIS Defectors you will not only have a thorough understanding of what makes the ISIS fighters tick, but you will also have no illusions about their goals to conquer as much of the world as they can by their singularly brutal methods. This book is another masterpiece by Anne Speckard and her research partner, Ahmet Yayla.” —Joe Charlaff, Middle East Correspondent for Homeland Security Today

“In this fascinating book, Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla offer a rare glimpse into the way IS,today’s greatest threat to world’s security and stability, carries out its business. Through courageous and risk fraught interviews with IS defectors we learn first hand how this barbaric organization exploits human frailties to impose its will on thousands and how it manages to force, indoctrinate or inspire Muslims world wide to serve and fight for its cause. This work offers the most vivid portrayal to date of a phenomenon that menaces to change the course of history and spread violent extremism across the globe.” —Arie W. Kruglanski, Distinguished University Professor, START Center, University of Maryland

“It has increasingly become apparent that the seeds of dismantling the Islamic State’s appeal lie in real-world, first person narratives of disillusionment. The book is far more than a simple collection of such narratives: it provides a timely and powerful antidote to the view that narratives of defection and disillusionment all follow a single, linear strand. On the contrary, the manifold and fascinating paths taken by the individuals whose journeys are chronicled here provide important insights seeking to understand the disillusionment of those who joined, and then were turned away from, the Islamic State. Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Sait Yayla’s work will become required reading for practitioners, policymakers and academics, plus the interested lay reader.” —Shashi Jayakumar (Dr.) Senior Fellow and Head, Centre of Excellence for National Security, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


“In their book, ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of Confronting the Caliphate, Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla ask the key question: why do people join the group? As importantly, they ask it of the right people: men and women who fought for, or otherwise supported, the so-called Islamic State. These personal accounts of defectors provide invaluable insights for those working to counter the ISIS appeal, and add significantly to our understanding of how the organisation works and where it is most vulnerable. The book shows us that although ISIS is known for its cold-blooded ruthlessness, there are many of its members who are disgusted by its brutality and repelled by itshypocrisy.” —Richard Barrett, Senior VP at the Soufan Group


“Effective counterterrorism requires us to encourage disengagement and defections from a terrorist network. This important book offers a wealth of examples of how this applies to ISIS, and should inform our strategy for defeating them. Kudos to Dr. Yayla and Dr. Speckhard for this important research, and to the courageous people who have risked ISIS retribution by defecting and revealing the true nature of the horrors within.”—Professor James Forest, University of Massachusetts Lowell


“Unveiling the seditious nature of IS, which is the epitome of terror in the true and wide sense of the word, is almost a sacred task. Dr Speckhard’s and her colleague, Ahmet S. Yayla’s book is a pioneering and illuminating work that brings first hand, authentic stories of defectors from IS’s ranks; which is a significant contribution to the in-depth understanding of the processes and dynamics that run in the veins of this fascist, contemporary phenomenon. As proven in her former works, Dr. Anne Speckhard is again standing at the forefront of an updated, relevant research contributing to the promotion of the deeper understanding in the field of counterterrorism. Their book will probably be a cornerstone work for more researchers on the subject matter and encourage more truthful stories that eventually will follow and be publicized when this so-called ‘Islamic State’ is eventually shattered, even if Salafi jihadism will probably plague us for a much longer time.”—Yoram Schweitzer, former Israeli intelligence officer, and currently the Director of a Research Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University


“The so-called Islamic State presents an unprecedented global threat. Since my encounter with Anne Speckhard in Iraq interviewing terrorist suspects, she has produced many notable works. Her latest with Ahmet S. Yayla, is essential reading for both scholars and practitioners!” —Professor Rohan Gunaratna, Author, Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror Columbia University Press


“In her latest book, Dr. Anne Speckhard, with her research partner, Dr. Ahmet Yayla, explores the intersection of psychology and terrorism via their in-depth interviews with ISIS defectors. This is fascinating stuff, in large part, because of Dr. Speckhard’s expertise in psychology and her ability to elicit candor from her interview subjects. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in the phenomena of ISIS and its legions of young recruits.”—Carol Rollie Flynn, Former Senior CIA Executive


“Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla’s report of their daring and courageous interviews of ISIS defectors exposes important insights into the group’s recruitment process that are crucial to countering violent extremism (CVE) work. More importantly, their book illuminates the reasons why these individuals left ISIS. This information not only has implications for interventions designed to prevent individuals from joining ISIS, but also has practical applications for discrediting ISIS by exposing their hypocrisies and failures. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in knowing more about why individuals join and leave terrorist groups, particularly those in the CVE field.”—Sara Zeiger, Senior Research Analyst, Hedayah

“Daesh (or the so-called ‘Islamic State’) will be remembered as the most acute challenge of our decade, and its propaganda machine has been effective at flooding the discursive space around the world, online and offline. But what of the stories of the many Daesh recruits disgusted by the realities of life under Daesh’s rule? In their new book, Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla undertake a courageous journey to let their voices be heard; to date, no one else has attempted such work at this scale. This book is a must-read for those seeking insights into life under Daesh—and the truths that, if exposed, could undermine the terrorist group’s recruitment.” —Yasmin Green, Head of Research and Development, Jigsaw/Google Ideas 


Amazon Reviews

Lifts the veil on the personal motivations of ISIS fighters…Critically-important narratives….

By bookmaven47 on July 8, 2016

This book is long overdue. It lifts the veil on the personal motivations and experiences of ISIS fighters – moving in both directions across the line. It is an important contribution to our deeper understanding and toward more sound policies and strategies for dealing with this seemingly endless scourge of violence. Our focus has justifiably been on the security threat posed by returnee fighters. But if history is any guide, the likely truth will be much more complicated. It is likely that the majority of returnees will be defectors, not infiltrators. They will be war-weary, disillusioned, even strongly alienated from the movement. Their journey out has to be wrought with extreme hazard — from ISIS stalwarts who will want to behead them, and from the security services of every nation whose frontiers they will cross — who will want to imprison them. Yet, it could be that their personal narratives will be among the most important renderings of this entire struggle. Balancing this against the clear-and-present security concern will not be easy, but some nuanced way needs to be found to sift out these valuable stories and exploit them in an effective and positive way. Benn Prybutok, MA, EJD, Adjunct Professor of Terrorism & Homeland Security


I highly recommend this book produced by two individuals who are each …

By D. Materani on July 7, 2016


Speckhard and Yayla produced an unprecedented, exceptional insight into the minds of former ISIS members. The combination of academic and practitioner expertise enabled the two to collectively maximize opportunities with each defector. The authors corroborate information with other sources which highlights their intention to produce a product that yields detailed understanding of the inner workings of ISIS. The insight includes perspectives from all levels of society affected by ISIS, including but not limited to disillusioned commanders, innocent bystanders tortured and killed, vulnerable young boys manipulated to fight and conduct suicide missions. If you want to gain a genuine insight into ISIS, I highly recommend this book produced by two individuals who are each experts in multiple fields.


Amazing narrative stories

By Ekrem Mus on July 3, 2016


We have to know our enemy to defeat him. This book gives an inside look into ISIS and tells us about truly courageous and creative work that the authors are doing to fight ISIS in the social media space where they currently dominate.

Well done and detailed narratives. Amazing and interesting.

I would suggest to anyone who needs to know more about ISIS.


As a counter-terrorism professional, I have worked terrorism cases …

By Daniel Guerrero on July 7, 2016


As a counter-terrorism professional, I have worked terrorism cases around the world. Despite significant analytical support, I was never able to grasp the nuances and underlying effectiveness of ISIS ideology and recruitment strategies. In “ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate,” Drs. Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla, through their exhaustive research and practice, offer insights which illuminate these practices, and how the United States can effectively counter the false narratives which allow ISIS to effectively recruit in the West. This is a must read for terrorism professionals. Daniel Guerrero, FBI (Ret.) / Former Diplomat, Turkey


ISIS Defectors.. a new work by two distinguished social scientists… Dr. Anne Speckhard and Dr. Ahmet S. Yayla’s book released in July, 2016.

By Dr. D. K. on July 9, 2016

I have read several chapters and am anxiously awaiting the complete book to explore the areas listed in the table of contents.  What is unique about their work, is the use of a qualitative methodology where personal interviewing of a number of individuals connected to ISIS in one fashion or another has been utilized.  The authors are in a special position, being well known experts in the field of terrorism with one also a highly experienced former senior member of the law enforcement community in Turkey who holds a doctorate in Sociology and who because of his background was able to speak directly in Arabic as a Cultural Equal to those being interviewed.  The other author has a doctorate in psychology and has enormous experience which involved the use of direct interviews of former and current terrorists around the world.  This particular project employed direct interviewing, as well as taking advantage of high tech with the additional reliance upon remote interviewing via skype which afforded additional opportunities beyond the traditional face to face approach.  Based upon my preliminary reading of several chapters I would recommend this book to those who want to know more about ISIS and from real experts who garnered the information from direct interviews with subjects.  A word of note, the book is not full of academic argot and should therefore be useful to those who might be hesitant because of the academic credentials of the authors.  I like that approach, in that information of this type needs to be available to the public at large as well as to the experts who make policies.  The vitality and life of the book will grab the attention of those who pick it up.  Congratulations on a job well done. I must also acknowledge that the authors took some personal risks to gather the information, and that should not be understated or ignored. Going out in the field, is very different than confining oneself to articles compiled by others from a variety of sources, they used a form of modified participant observation.  The combined experience of both authors is breath taking. I would hope that the folks involved in Human Terrain and Special Ops will avail themselves of this book.


Dr. D. K.

Professor Emeritus

Anthropology, Sociology, Criminal Justice




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