Inside an ISIS Handbook for Foreigners Running to the Islamic State
A new 50-page e-book released this month by ISIS gives directions to would-be jihadists and women wanting to join the Islamic State on everything from securing a safehouse in Turkey to packing enough underwear for the trip.
Maps in the book suggest flying into Şanlıurfa, Turkey, for a nearly 80-mile overland trip to Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the "caliphate."
"People who leave to get to Syria do not tell anyone, not even family. Travellers to Syria usually want to reach Turkey. But for safety reasons, they buy a ticket for an indirect holiday country like Spain or Greece so their destination doesn't seem suspicious," the guide states, suggesting buying a return ticket to tamp down suspicion.
Upon arriving in Turkey, the person waits for a contact arranged through Twitter, important because "they will require protection in addition to not knowing where to go to, or who to trust."
The old way of getting into Syria, the handbook said, was dressing in a non-religious fashion and hoping Turkish border guards let them past checkpoints, but the "updated method" is now looking for border guards and sprinting into Syria near Akçakale, Turkey. "Lately things have got harder at the Turkish border, so Islamic State members often meet new people in Turkey hotels and smuggle them across the border," though the safehouses are "usually males only" and can only be accessed with "a paper signed by an existing member to show he is trustworthy."
"The only reason members live in Turkey in some peace is because Turkey fears revenge attacks," says the manual.
It also stresses that financial aid could be available, noting a group of Turkistanis (Kazakhstan) who were broke but had their trip arranged and paid for after sending a letter to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
For the journey, ISIS recommends carrying no more luggage than a suitcase, a "tough" backpack with lots of pockets, and one "satchel-type bag" or fanny pack to stash passport and wallet along with other "vitals" including wet wipes, "a few pills (if you suffer from any condition)," a little flashlight and a "few band-aids."
If a would-be jihadist can't fit a full change of clothes into the backpack along with all of his electronics, "at least pack some clean underwear." ISIS recommends packing tablet computers, MP3 players for lectures, external hard drives to stash jihadi material, unlocked WiFi modem, headlamp, and solar chargers to work around "erratic and interrupted" electricity in the Islamic State and not be "dirtying the Earth which belongs to Allah."
The guide recommends bringing an electric hair trimmer. "If you’re a brother, this is the quickest way to trim your moustache here, and if you like the Talafi buzzcut or egghead-style, then bring a bigger hair clipper."
For clothes, jihadists are advised to bring knee pads, running shoes, flip-flops, long johns, windbreakers, beanies, goggles, and lots of socks. The handbook on how much clothes to bring: "Bring only the strict minimum (okay, so some sisters fainted after reading this bit, but continue reading, in shā Allah)."
Also on the packing list, in addition to standard toiletries: "Skin lotion and hand lotion if you have dry skin" and utensils including a spork. The guide notes that "knives here are scarce" and low quality.
There's a section on how to talk to Turkish authorities if stopped, including claiming the purpose of the visit is tourism or helping Syrian refugees along the border. "Make sure you have a good knowledge of the tourist attractions in Turkey. Go to a travel agent and get yourself some brochures on Turkey or buy a traveller’s handbook. This is important since if they question you, you can just brandish this in front of their noses and show them how serious of a tourist you are."
It advises women to arrange contacts beforehand, to learn some conversational Turkish, not travel on the same plane in groups larger than three, buy a SIM card for a cell phone at the airport, and to "be chill to the airport officers." Once at a hotel, the woman would call contacts for a ride to a home of an ISIS sympathizer in preparation to cross the border at night or dawn. It cautions that if you leave your luggage at the safehouse "they might steal your stuff." The guide also recommends bringing an extra abaya in case a woman rips hers while crawling under barbed wire at the border.
After crossing into ISIS territory, newbies are advised to "be sure to take a breath of fresh air, ‘cause that’s how sharī’ah feels like."
The handbook includes some testimonials from foreign fighters who made the trip, including a European jihadist who "hacked some Israeli credit cards" to cover the cost of his ticket.
One woman tells of sneaking off from her family to join the Islamic State yet being detained by Turkish authorities who didn't buy her story of being an aid worker. ISIS "found out about our predicament and sent us a lawyer who worked some magic" and got she and other women released from Turkish custody after a week, she writes.
The guide includes a list of Twitter handles, some suspended, of contacts within the Islamic State, reminding would-be jihadis to reach out only through secure browsers and chat apps.