By Oezlem Gezer and Holger Stark in Istanbul
More than 200 Islamists are believed to have left Germany to join the jihad in Pakistan. But, after learning what life there is really like, many of them are abandoning the cause and heading home — right into the unwelcoming arms of the law.
Istanbul’s Kumkapi neighborhood is normally the kind of place where belly dancers can be found gyrating their hips in front of drunk patrons. For Peter B., who is currently locked up in a cell in Kumkapi, it’s the place where God is testing him for paradise.
The Turkish prison for detainees awaiting deportation is a beige, sandstone building. Surveillance cameras monitor the three floors, and guards armed with submachine guns are posted at the entrance. In a room on the ground floor, Peter B. is kneeling on white tiles in front of his 3-year-old son, Uwais. The boy asks his father: “Why did the police arrest you?” Stroking his father’s face, he adds: “If you pray a lot, they’ll let you out.”
An armed guard monitors the family reunion behind bars. Peter B. places his hand on his son’s neck and recites a verse from the Koran. It’s meant to protect him from shaitan, the devil. “I left Pakistan so that my children’s brains wouldn’t be numbed,” he says. He was disappointed by his fellow Muslims, whose video messages had lured him to Waziristan, a mountainous part of the Hindu Kush region and a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaida.
They had promised that there would be schools and hospitals there, he says, adding: “You trust your brothers, and you think they don’t lie.” He raises his left eyebrow and says: “There was nothing there except flying drones.”
A Reversing Trend
For years, the mountainous region straddling the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan seemed like a mecca of sorts for militants. More than 200 volunteers left Germany, traveling alone or with their families, headed for Waziristan. Those who had gone first then appeared in Internet videos to recruit more volunteers. They promised a paradise on earth, or at least a precursor to it. For German law-enforcement officials, the combatants were a nightmare, and they were viewed as the biggest threat to domestic security.
But this trend has been reversing itself for some time now. The number of volunteers is declining, while the number of those making the journey back home is growing.
Living conditions in the mountains are tougher than portrayed in the promotional clips. Death is constantly raining down from the sky in the form of missiles from American drones. A dozen combatants from Germany have already died.
Read more at Spiegel Online