No kidding. Mohamad Jamal Khweis made an appearance on Kurdish television last night, as his captors broadcast what appears to be a confession from the 26-year-old American in interview style. Khweis’ account of his travel to ISIS and Mosul seems more than a little self-serving, however. To hear Khweis tell the story, he went to Mosul on a lark after falling in love. NBC’s Richard Engel reported the story last night:
He said he left for Europe in December and wound up in Turkey where he met an Iraqi girl who said she was from Mosul — which was seized by ISIS militants in June 2014.
According to Khweis, he’s been in Mosul for a month. That means he got there within two months of getting into Europe, which seems like an awfully short time frame for someone who just wanted to see the Continent to get shanghaied into Iraq. That sounds like someone who had that destination in mind. Khweis claims that it was the girl’s idea:
“She knows somebody who could take us from Turkey to Syria and then from Syria to Mosul, so I decided to go with her,” he said.
It’s at this point that anyone who doesn’t want to live in a brutal theocratic dictatorship enforced by radical terrorists and homicidal maniacs would perhaps speak up and say, “Maybe we should look at … Denmark?” Instead, Khweis tagged along with the girl, according to his account, through a number of increasingly strange activities for someone who’s merely traveling the world:
They took a bus to the Turkish border and then a taxi to Syria that was arranged by the woman’s sister, who had been married to an ISIS member, Khweis said.
What followed was a series of stays in houses with other foreigners — including Asians and Russians — who surrendered their passports and identification and were given nicknames.
Khweis denies becoming a fighter for ISIS, and says that he didn’t like their indoctrination into shari’a. He arranged to escape Mosul for Turkey at that point, and claims he didn’t accidentally run into the Kurds but found them so they could send him back home. He ended up in Iraq only because of the girl and “bad decisions“:
“At the time I made the decision, I was not thinking straight. On the way there I regretted, and I wanted to go back home after things didn’t work out and saw myself living in such an environment,” he said. Khweis said conditions in Mosul are “very difficult.”
“I stayed there about a month, and I found it very, very hard to live there. I decided to return back home,” he said. According to Khweis, he regretted “going off with Daesh,” an alternate term for ISIS, and was trying to make contact with Kurdish forces when he was captured Monday.
As Robert Gamble quipped on Twitter last night, letting your girlfriend cut your hair is a bad decision. Following your girlfriend to ISIS — and that’s taking Khweis at his word — is a criminal act loaded with consequences. This story sounds very difficult to believe, at least everything right up to the disillusionment with ISIS life in Mosul and the desire to get back out. It sounds as though Khweis intended to go to Iraq, met up in Europe with a woman who made the arrangements and the covert travel that would necessarily take weeks to conclude, and then wanted to get out through Turkey once he got a taste of what life under sociopathic dictatorship was like. He likely got caught by the Kurds because of his unfamiliarity with the geography, and not because he thought the Kurds would get him back to America more quickly than he could manage for himself in Turkey.
One thing is for sure: Khweis will see Americans more quickly now, in the form of intelligence agents and law-enforcement officers. He may not enjoy that experience, either.