The following report/video is a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
A graphic novel, "The Journey of a Mujahid with Jabhat Al-Nusra," posted on the Internet in seven installments in November and December 2013, recounts the story of Mustafa, a young Muslim living in a Western country, who goes to Syria to wage jihad. There he discovers that young men like him are callously mistreated and exploited, and sometimes even used as cannon fodder.
Following are excerpts from the graphic novel:
"The Journey of a Mujahid with Jabhat Al-Nusra"
Mustafa, a Muslim youth, prays in his room
"After a few hours…"
Mustafa plays a war game on the computer in his bedroom
"Red platoon: attack, attack!"
A knock on the door
Mustafa’s father is at the door
Father: "Mustafa, it’s noon. Are you going to stay in your room all day, playing that computer game?
"Mustafa, your mother and I want a better future for you. You’ve finished high school, and that’s it. That was four years ago. Don’t you have aspirations for the future? We brought you and your brothers to this Western country so that you would have an opportunity for a better life. Look at your brothers – one has become an engineer and the other a doctor. I’m very proud of you, and I want a good future for you. Don’t disappoint me.
"In the afternoon…"
Bedroom door is slammed shut
Mustafa’s hand is on the doorknob
"In the afternoon…"
Mustafa is playing soccer with other youths in the street
A man in traditional Muslim garb calls out: "Mustafa!"
Mustafa: "Hello, Marwan."
Marwan: "Hey, cousin, how’re you doing? Where have you been? I’m surprised I haven’t seen you in the mosque lately."
Mustafa: "I know, Marwan. I’d like to spend more time with you in the mosque, but I’m very busy. I’ll do my best to make more time for it."
Marwan: "Okay, cousin. I know that living in a foreign country has its difficulties, but we must not forget where we have come from. We lead comfortable lives here, but Muslims are dying every day all over the world, defending Islam and the Muslims."
Sounds and images of war in the background
"You know that my family is still in Syria, trapped between the fighters. They have witnessed many barbaric crimes and killings, which no man can bear to see.
"I pray to Allah the Almighty every day that they will keep in good health, and I hope you will join me in prayer in the mosque. Our faith and our honor are more important than any worldly matter."
Mustafa: "I know that, Marwan, and I promise I will go to pray in the mosque more often. Please tell your family that I am worried about them."
"Three months later…"
Sounds of prayer in the background, a scene of prayer at a mosque
Marwan: "I’m very proud of you, cousin. I see that you’ve been coming to the mosque every day."
Mustafa:" I was on a path away from Allah, but I’m very glad that I took your advice and returned to Allah the Almighty.
"It was your stories of the killing and torture in Syria that had an impact on me. I can hardly believe what is happening to my brothers in Syria.
"These people are fighting and dying for the sake of Allah, and there is no greater honor than that. Allah will hold the aggressors accountable on Judgment Day.
"If we do not sacrifice our lives in order to make the word of Allah reign supreme, how shall we face Him on Judgment Day?"
Sheikh Muhammad, an older Muslim who overhears him in the mosque: "These words of yours are awesome, young man. You bring honor to your family and to Islam. But if you are ready to wage jihad for the sake of Allah along with your brothers in Syria… call this number"
The man hands Mustafa a card […]
"One week after the meeting..."
Mustafa thinks: "It's time for me to do the right thing, and join my brothers fighting the infidels."
Mustafa dials a number on his phone
On the other end of the line: "Who's there?"
Mustafa: "My name is Mustafa. Sheikh Muhammad gave me this number, and told me to call you if I want to join the fighting."
On the other end of the line: "I've been expecting your call. Meet me next Friday at the mosque. Bring as much money as you can, and be cautious."
Mustafa thinks: "Allah Akbar"
Mustafa packs a bag and writes a note:
"Dear Marwan, I have decided to leave and join the mujahideen, in Syria. I hope you will be proud of me. Allah willing, we will meet again, in this world or in the world to come. "
The note addressed to Marwan is left on Mustafa's desk, as he leaves his room
"Two weeks later..."
Mustafa leaves an airport and meets a man
Mustafa: "Hello. Are you Mr. Samir, Salah Al-Din's friend?"
Mr. Samir: "Yes. Do you have papers with you?"
Mustafa: "Yes, brother."
Mr. Samir: "I was told that you would give me 500 euro."
Money is exchanged
Mr. Samir: "Follow me, and don't talk to anyone."
Mr. Samir gestures at a truck with its cabin covered in tarp. He lifts the tarp to reveal several youths
"Climb up now. Hurry, brother!"
"For several days, the brothers covered a large distance, braving the difficult desert conditions, with which they were not familiar. They carried in their hearts a strong belief, in response to the will of Allah."
Mr. Samir: "This is a new checkpoint. I don't know this group. I will need all the money you have on you so we can pass safely."
Mustafa, reciting from the Koran [2:244] to his fellow travelers: "And fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah hears all and knows all..."
Mr. Samir: "Have something to eat and drink, guys. I hope you have had enough rest. If you prove yourselves to be real men in the training and give it your all, you can be among the lions of Jabhat Al-Nusra in the battlefield, and emerge victorious, if it is the will of Allah."
Mustafa: "You said that your name was Salim and that you are from Libya, right? I'm Mustafa. Have you ever fought before?"
Salim, a fellow recruit: "No, brother. Allah willing, we will reach the brothers and join them soon. I have already spent weeks on the journey. I wanted to join the brothers earlier, but my father was sick in bed. But Allah be praised, the brothers have promised to help my family if I am martyred for the sake of Allah. Allah willing, I hope that what Mr. Samir said will come true, and we will be among the lions of Jihad on the day of victory."
Mustafa: "Brother, I will be honored to fight by your side at any time.
"And what's your name?"
Qassem: "Hello, brothers, my name is Abu Jassem Al-Qahtani, but my friends call me Qassem. I too didn't join the jihad before, but I have realized the truth in the saying that Allah bestows His goodness upon the mujahideen. I am honored to be among you. My father is very wealthy, but is not interested in jihad. I collected all the money I could, and came here without anybody knowing. My brother went to Iraq in 2005, and we haven't heard anything of him since. Allah willing, I will meet him among the mujahideen, or in the Hereafter."
Mustafa: "Allah willing, I am sure that we will meet your brother on the front, and..."
Gunfire is heard in the background
"What's that noise? What shall we do?"
Bearded mujahid: "Relax, brothers, that's the sound of jJihad. We have arrived, Allah be praised."
Mr. Samir: "Quickly, get out now."
Gunfire in the background
Mr. Samir: "Everybody out of the truck."
Explosions and scenes of destruction
"They told me they'd pay 1,000 euro for every fighter."
Abu Hamza: "Your information is wrong – it's 250 euro for each one."
Mr. Samir: "Okay, but this is the last time I bring people over. I hope you are killed in a bloody battle!"
Abu Hamza: "Pay no attention to him. He has been blinded by greed. I am Abu Hamza. I will select and train some of you for special missions of Jabhat Al-Nusra. If you follow my orders, we will be victorious. Let's be honest... You are not yet considered fighters, but you were right to take this courageous decision. If I suspect any of you to be an infidel, I will kill you myself."
New recruit: "Abu Hamza, I am willing to kill the enemies. Show me the way."
Abu Hamza punches him in the face
Abu Hamza: "This is jihad, not barbaric and meaningless killing. I am here to defend Syria, not to deal with uncooperative ignoramuses. Go to that building and stay there. If you don't run home to your mamas, you can cook and clean for those worthy of being called mujahideen."
"A week later..."
Abu Hamza opens the door to the structure where the new recruits are sleeping
Abu Hamza: "You three, follow me. Come along, children. This way."
They walk through a mess hall, where mujahideen are eating, and enter a room where a large-screen TV shows a soccer game underway
Abu Hamza: "We have an operation for the three of you. It will serve as a test. There is a small pharmacy, eight blocks from here. The owner is a traitor, and he has important medicines that we need. You must storm the place, and bring back the medicine and whatever money you find."
Qassem: "What should we do if the owner of the pharmacy returns?"
Seasoned mujahid with a gun pointed at Qassem: "The little boy here isn't ready even for a small operation. Imagine what he'd be like on the battlefield. Look how scared he is!"
Abu Hamza: "Enough with that!"
"That is the test, brother. It's a very simple operation, but it requires self-confidence. Place your trust in Allah, and if you have no faith, go home. Now go."
Mustafa, Salim, and Qassem stand outside the pharmacy
Salim: "Come on. Search the drawers."
Pharmacist enters and points a gun at them: "Please stop! Please, I need these things."
Mustafa: "Ruuuuuuuuun!" [...]
The pharmacist shoots and hits Qassem
Mustafa: "Qassem! No!!!!!!"
Mustafa lifts Qassem's shirt to reveal a gunshot wound in his back
Mustafa and Salim prop Qassem up
Mustafa: "Don't worry, brother. We'll get you the help you need."
The recruits return to HQ
Abu Hamza: "Did you bring the money?"
Salim: "Sir, Qassem has been shot. Please help him."
Abu Hamza: "Jihad is for men, not for boys who cannot bear the sight of a little blood. You've let me down. Get out of my face."
Qassem: "I'm so sorry, my brothers."
Qassem, grunting, begins to bleed from the mouth.
Qassem: "Please tell my father that I faced death courageously."
Mustafa and Salim bury Qassem
Mustafa: "We will miss you, little brother."
Salim: "Let's go, Mustafa."
Mustafa and Salim walk past a creek. On the other side a group of mujahideen are listening to a lecture by Abu Ammar Al-Anbari, the camp commander
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "A true Muslim must surrender his soul to Allah. Worldly matters are meaningless. If we truly surrender our souls to Allah, he will reward us in Paradise. Come, brothers, let us pray."
Mustafa and Salim join in prayer
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "Salaam Aleikum. Allah's blessings upon you, my children. My name is Abu Ammar Al-Anbari, and this is my training camp. We mujahideen fight for the sake of Allah. Come with us. Let's have breakfast.
"I have participated in the fighting, and I have been teaching Koran lessons for many years. I came from Iraq in order to run this project. We are here in order to defend all the Muslims who need our help. What about you?"
Mustafa: "We have come a long way to get here, but we did not receive the welcome we expected. Our friend Qassem was killed last night in a burglary we did not even want to participate in. Now I am not at all sure about the reason I came to Syria."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "My children, please accept my condolences for the death of your friend Qassem. In every war, there are disasters. We are fighting for the sake of Allah, and your place is here with us. Go through the training, and fight for jihad for the sake of Allah with us."
Mustafa and Salim shake hands with Abu Ammar Al-Anbari
"A few days later..."
Salim: "I am losing patience. When will they let us train with the rest of the mujahideen?"
Mustafa: "I don't know, Salim. I wish I knew what was going on here. Al-Anbari seems to be an expert in these matters, but he never tells us what he is planning."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari [on the phone]: "Yes, sir, I understand."
Salim: "Perhaps we should ask him, because he still doesn't trust us."
Mustafa: "Sir... Sir... We were wondering when we would be allowed to train. We are ready, and we would like to take part in the next mission."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari [on the phone]: "Let me call you back in a little bit."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari [to Mustafa and Salim]: "You must be patient, my children. When the time is right, you will get your chance to elevate the word of Allah. But for now, place your trust in Allah and He will guide you on the right path."
"A month later..."
Abu Zeid, Mujahid: "Guys, Abu Ammar wants to see you in his tent."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "My children, the commanders I have talked to are proud of you and of the progress you've made in training. You have demonstrated your loyalty, and we have a very important mission for you." [...]
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "My children, in a nearby city, there is a merchant who operates a spy network against our camp. Abu Zeid will give you give you more detailed information, but we must get to know his network."
Salim: "Will you give us weapons?"
Abu Zeid: "We will give you bulletproof vests, in case the traitor decides to fight us. Be patient, and focus on your mission. Fighting will soon come. May Allah reward you for your firm belief."
"A week later..."
Mustafa, Salim and another recruit and a mujahid wearing a green shirt are sitting in the back of a pickup truck driven by Abu Zeid
Salim: "Majed, I'm very glad they picked you to carry out this mission with us. Today, we will humiliate the traitors, and prove to Al-Anbari that we are ready to fight."
Majed: "Allah willing."
Abu Zeid: "Now take these bulletproof vests and put them on under your clothes. They will protect you if the traitor starts shooting. We believe that the traitor will meet somebody at the kiosk today. You should take photos of all the people who go there. I will be near the entrance in order to stop any unexpected confrontation. Good luck, children."
Salim: "Nobody has been near the kiosk all day."
Mustafa: "I know that the situation is not at all encouraging."
Majed: "Perhaps we should get closer so we can see better."
Beep beep beep
Mustafa: "Wait, what's that noise?"
Salim: "Majed, it's coming from your bullet-proof vest!"
Abu Zeid detonates the vest with his smartphone, thinking: "Allah Akbar"
The beeping grows stronger and then there is an explosion
Mustafa is lying on the ground covered in blood. Salim crawls towards him.
Salim: "Mustafa! Please help me!"
Mustafa: "Salim, stay calm, brother. I'll get you out of here."
Salim: "Mustafa, please don't le me die like this."
Mustafa: "Don't worry, brother. We'll be there soon."
Mustafa and Salim are back on the pickup truck
News report on the radio: "A loud explosion took place a short while ago in the market. Dozens of fatalities are reported following the explosion."
Voice from the commander's tent: "There is no official report yet, but dozens of fatalities were reported on the news. Allah Akbar."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari [holding his phone in his hand]: "Thank God you are alive, children. Allah has blessed us."
Mustafa: "What happened? Salim is in a bad way, and many people were killed. Where is Abu Zeid? I haven't heard from Abu Zeid."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "Unfortunately, he was probably killed in the explosion."
Mustafa: "But it was Abu Zeid who gave Majed the vest that exploded. He is the one who killed all those people."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "My suspicions have been confirmed. Apparently, Abu Zeid was one of the traitors. The important thing is that you have returned alive."
Mustafa: "But sir, Salim is seriously injured. Please help him."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "I am afraid that Salim is very seriously injured. I promise you that we will give Majed and Salim a martyr's funeral, may Allah have mercy upon them."
Mustafa: "Please, brother Salim, stay with us. Wait!"
Salim: "Mustafa, my brother, my time has come. I'm sorry that we did not get the chance to fight together."
Salim gasps for air
"Please tell my father that I love him."
At Salim's funeral
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "I am sorry for your loss. This is the complex and ugly reality we face. We are dealing with an enemy that defies the word of Allah."
Mustafa: "But why do all these innocent people have to die?"
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "My son, Abu Zeid is a traitor who does not care who is killed. Let us give thanks to Allah that you have returned."
Mustafa: "Thank you, sir. I am confident that you will show me the true path to Allah."
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "Tomorrow we will begin training with weapons. You shall see for yourselves the greatness of jihad for the sake of Allah."
Mustafa writes a letter
"My dear Marwan... Tomorrow, I begin weapon training. Things are difficult here, but I think I have a group of people whom I can trust. Please keep praying for me and for all those who suffer."
Mustafa lights a cigarette
Mustafa sits outside his tent and sees a light coming from the commander's tent
Voice from the commander's tent: "Yes sir, the operation was carried out according to plan. We managed to make sure that the merchant was killed. It was an excellent operation, brother, but what about the young man who survived?"
Another voice: "That was unexpected. We didn't expect him to stay alive. I'm sorry that part of the plan was not completed."
Voices are revealed as belonging to Abu Ammar Al-Anbari, and Abu Zeid. Mustafa overhears them talking.
Abu Ammar Al-Anbari: "That's fine, brother. We'll just use him in the next operation."
Abu Zeid: "Thank you."
Mustafa is walking in the dark along the tents in the camp
He thinks about the explosion and other experiences he has had since coming to the camp
Mustafa thinks: "It's time I left and returned home. I will wake up before dawn... I will steal a car and drive it toward the border. With a little bit of luck I will cross the border, and call my family to come get me."
Mustafa leaves his tent and tries to get into a pickup truck
Abu Zeid and a mujahid wearing a green shirt point guns at him: "Hey, you! Stop!"
They shoot at him
Mustafa is injured in the thigh
Abu Zeid: "Stop!"
Mustafa continues driving despite the gunfire
"Confused, Mustafa drives quickly away from the camp..."
Mustafa thinks: "I feel like I'm going to faint. Maybe I'll stop and rest for a few minutes."
Mustafa falls asleep in the back seat of the truck with blood trickling from his mouth
Sirens are heard
Medic in ambulance: "I need more antibiotics."
Other medic: "It's an emergency. He needs a blood transfusion."
Medic: "He's dying!"
Heart monitor flatlines
Doctor: "What's your name, son? Where are you from?"
Mustafa: "Er... Mustafa, I'm from..."
Mustafa sees that his leg has been amputated
Mustafa passes out
It is morning; birds fly in a blue sky
Refugees walk in a long procession along a winding road
A bearded Mustafa is carried on a platform drawn by a donkey
Young girl: "Put your head down and get some rest, sir."
Mustafa recites Koran 5:8 to himself: "Oh you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do."
A long line of refugees is at a checkpoint, guarded by armed men
Young girl: "Remember – if they ask you, you are a Syrian refugee, one of our family."
Mustafa notices that one of the guards is the mujahid with the green shirt who had shot at him
Mustafa [hugging the young girl]: "Thank you so much. You and your family have saved my life."
Mustafa uses a pay phone to call home
Mustafa, with a tear in his eye: "Dad? It's Mustafa."
"One week later..."
Mustafa in traditional Muslim garb and crutches walks down the street and meets Marwan
Marwan: "Mustafa! Thank God that you are alive!"
Marwan embraces Mustafa
Mustafa: "Marwan, my cousin, I have something to tell you."
Marwan: "What, cousin?"
Mustafa: "The truth."
"The End" [...]