The propaganda arsenal of ISIL is now well-known: a sophisticated media campaign complete with Hollywood-style videos and a mastery of social networks, it has managed to attract many western recruits.
Mohamed Nidalha’s son was sent from Holland to Belgium to stay with his uncle but met with people who linked him with a militant recruitment network.
“Those people are professionals. They know exactly who their prey is. They pick on the easiest prey they can easily brainwash,” he said.
It is not just western European countries, the so-called Islamic State’s reach has also spread to Georgia. Tina Borchashvili’s son left for school one day and never came back.
“When you repeat every day to young, 16 or 18-year-olds that Jihad is the best and you will get into the paradise, that you will receive many things in return, these children think it is right.”
ISIL has been particularly efficient at recruiting westerners, in part, because they publish their material in European languages, and not only in Arabic.
Peter Neumann, Director at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London explains what appeals to foreign fighters.
“There hasn’t been a single conflict since 1945 in the Muslim world that has attracted quite as many foreigners as this conflict.Of course some people take religion very seriously and have consciously gone there because it does represent their utopia, their religious utopia. There are other people who are perhaps more attracted by the adventure, and by the thrill.”
With so many westerners joining, the issue of returning jihadists is proving a dilemma, especially with the prospect of attacks on European soil.
Mohamed Nidalha worries about his own son returning.
“Imagine, my son comes back. What kind of son do I get back? I don’t get the same son as before. I get a totally different son back. And the Dutch government could have prevented that. Because my son has now learned things there in Syria. My son might be able to make bombs now, maybe he can shoot.”