Quitting ISIS

Why Syrians are Abandoning the Group

A Syrian national flag hangs next to the ISIS slogan at a roundabout where executions were carried out by ISIS militants in the city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria, April 1, 2016. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Two years after he joined the Islamic State (ISIS), Ammar was no longer a believer. A former law student from the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, Ammar had been swept up in the 2011 protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He turned to ISIS in November 2014, after watching the revolution degenerate into a devastating civil war. The caliphate, he believed, was the only force capable of challenging the Assad regime and restoring the dignity of Muslims after decades of humiliation and oppression by the West. He genuinely believed that ISIS wanted to bring justice and security to his country.

But after years of seemingly interminable violence, Ammar became disillusioned with an organization that was increasingly treating its Syrian fighters as second-class citizens and Syrian civilians even worse. He watched ISIS execute friends he had known since childhood and grew increasingly resentful of foreign fighters from Europe and the Gulf, who are

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