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Former ISIS Media Operative From Luxembourg Says In Interview That He Regrets Joining Group, Is Willing To Go Prison For His 'Mistake'

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On June 27, 2019, Rudaw, a Kurdish TV channel, aired an interview with a former ISIS member who condemned the group, expressed regret for joining it and voiced his willingness to go to prison to pay for his "mistake."

The man, who identified himself as Steve Amieiro Duarte and is being held by Kurdish soldiers, said that his real intention in going to Syria in 2014 was to receive a diploma in Islamic studies to become eligible to enroll in a school in the Arabian Peninsula. He said he communicated on Facebook with a man named Abu Aqeel, who convinced him that he could learn Arabic and study Islam in Syria.

Duarte said he travelled from Luxembourg to Istanbul, Turkey, where he took a bus to the city of Gaziantep, and from there went to Jarabulus, Syria. He noted that after receiving military training for two months, he was asked to go to the frontlines, but he refused, saying his intention in coming to Syria was to learn religious studies, not to fight.  

He then was sent to Manbij, Syria, to work as a photographer, a job he said he held for two months, before leaving the city after an ISIS emir accused him of being a slacker.

Next, Duarte said his spine was injured, that he was unable to move for six months, and that he had to undergo physical therapy. During that period, he received monthly disability payments from ISIS for about seven months.

After he recovered, Duarte said he went to Raqqa and married a French woman of African origin, with whom he had two children: a three-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. 

Duarte noted that the situation in ISIS-controlled territory was prosperous until the Syrian Democratic Forces started closing in on ISIS, which led to disagreements between local and foreign fighters.

Duarte denied meeting any Kurds during his time with ISIS and said he had heard that there were Kurdish ISIS fighters. 

Expressing his intention to return to Luxembourg, Duarte said: "I would like to go back to Luxembourg with my family and find a job. I don't want to go back to ISIS. I would like to take care of my children and watch my son and daughter grow up."

He mentioned that he had converted to Islam and loves it as a religion and condemned ISIS, saying there is a big difference between ISIS's practices and the Quran.

Duarte also mentioned that he used to communicate with his mother online and that the internet was extremely slow. He said he asked her to transfer money to him but she could not because it was illegal. Duarte said he was informed by his mother that fighters and their families had been given a chance to leave the town of Baghouz, where he was residing. "I spoke with an ISIS fighter," he said, "and he told me that it was correct and that I could leave with a group." Duarte said he then left with his wife, taking a different route and without registering his name.

Duarte then reiterated his desire to return to Luxembourg: "Yes, I do want to go back to Luxembourg and I have to serve jail time there. I made a mistake and if that required that I go to prison, I would go. I want to live a simple life after being released from prison, to take care of my children and teach my son and daughter about life and warn them not to make the mistake I made. I want to have a new life."

Source: Youtube.com, June 27, 2019.