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The Islamic State Takes Care of You

The Islamic State Takes Care of You features 25-year-old Abu Hamza, a Syrian from Deir ez-Zor interviewed in 2016 in Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla. The video was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and ICSVE staff.

Abu Hamza originally joined the uprising against Assad and fought for the Free Syrian Army, but later joined ISIS when they emerged in 2013, believing they would be victorious. He explains his disappointment, telling  how the people of Deir ez-Zor had to pay for electricity, became jobless and were starving under ISIS rule, but were too afraid to speak out.

Abu Hamza narrates how his cousin became paralyzed from a gunshot wound while fighting for ISIS, but that ISIS leadership did nothing to help him, even turning him away from their hospital when his parents brought him for surgery.

Like many ISIS fighters, Abu Hamza is psychologically traumatized by the things he witnessed and experienced while serving ISIS.  He recalls beheadings and corpses and that ISIS had no mercy for anyone. He finishes by saying that ISIS is worse than the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Timed transcript of The Islamic State Takes Care of You video:

0.33    I speak as a citizen and as a former member [of ISIS].

0:08    People, in ad Deir, Raqqa and elsewhere [were] suffocating [under ISIS] but [couldn’t] speak out.

0:24    They [were] starving. They [made] them pay for electricity and there [were] no jobs.

0:31    My cousin [on my mother’s side], was living with us.

0:39    He got shot in one of the battles.

0:41    ABU HAMZA

Former ISIS Soldier

The bullet went into his ear and went through his shoulder.

0:47     It hit the nerve and he was paralyzed.

0:50     He can only move his hand from here to here. It’s a total paralysis.

0:58     ISIS didn’t help him or try to benefit him.

1:02     His parents tried [taking him for surgery] but weren’t successful.

1:05     [His parents] took him to the hospital but ISIS sent him back home.

1:10     [ISIS] didn’t take him to Turkey, for example, or help him some other way. Nothing.

1:18     I saw horrible sights [by ISIS].

1:22    I saw beheadings. I saw corpses. I saw killed people.

1;29    They spare no mercy for people who defect or for the murtad [apostates].

1:38    They are worse than the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

1:48    The Truth Behind the Islamic State

1:51    Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

1:57    See more at

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=78) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: and on the ICSVE website  Follow @AnneSpeckhard

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