For a report in the November issue of Harper’s Magazine, James Harkin interviews British ISIS fighter Kabir Ahmed, aka Abu Sumayyah, who killed himself in a suicide bombing in Iraq this past weekend. Ahmed was the first Brit ISIS fighter to perform a suicide bombing. His interview with Harkin was likely his last.
In the resulting article entitled “How the Islamic State Was Won,” Sumayyah brags to Harkin about the ease with which Islamic State fighters have defeated the Iraqi army. “He spoke like a typical British thirty-year-old, with a few Arabic words dropped in,” Harkin writes. “‘Listen, akhi,’ he’d say (akhi is the Arabic word for ‘brother’ and the comradely address preferred by jihadis in Syria). When the Internet connection dimmed, he quipped: ‘Bro, you sound like something from The Matrix.’”
Sumayyah tells Harkin he looks forward to the coming era of passport-free travel as the Islamic State widens its frontiers through Syria, Iraq, and beyond. He reveals that he had been imprisoned in Britain, “for the propagation of my religion.” (His criminal convictions were for stirring up hatred against homosexuals and shouting homophobic abuse at a gay-pride parade.) Sumayyah calls Britain “Dar al-Kufr,” or “the land of infidels.” He tells Harkin that among his new friends, are jihadi veterans from all over the world, including the United States. “It’s like a dream: one day we eat Eritrean, the next we eat Pakistani. We are breaking borders; we are breaking racism,” he says.
Sumayyah speaks excitedly of the new government and its personnel. “There is free medical, dental, and eye care, and the doctors are all absolutely free,” he says. “All these services are building blocks of the state.” There are orphanages and special madrassas where orphan children were taught to memorize the Koran and Islamic State military bases were also open to children, especially orphans, so they can “learn about jihad and military matters.”
Sumayyah tells Harkin he believes that reports of mass executions of hundreds of Shia prisoners have been exaggerated, or deserved. A full 2,000 Iraqi soldiers had been given the opportunity to repent, he says, “This is the way of Islam. Everyone gets a chance to repent. But if they don’t, it’s death. It’s the same in every country in the world: it’s treason against the state.”