Family portrait: A group of about 150 Kazakhs, who say they are from the same family, have arrived in Syria to fight as jihadists.
As hundreds of thousands of Syrians flee the war in their country, others are doing everything they can to reach the battle zones. Around 150 Kazakhs said to be from the same family – including very young children, teenagers, women and men – left their country “to fulfil their duty of jihad in the Levant”. Jihadist networks have been proudly circulating images of their relocation to Syria.
Since Monday, a propaganda video uploaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, has been doing the rounds of jihadist social networks. Its title is dramatic: “Letters from epic battlefields, the hospitality of a jihadist family”, and the video’s content is unprecedented.
The video begins with a military march, followed by the arrival of three vehicles carrying the black flags of Al-Qaeda and ISIL as they arrive at the gates of a villa. Within minutes, we see, in white text on a black background: “The al-Furqan Institute [the media arm of ISIL] enjoys the hospitality of a Muhajir [foreign] family. The 150 members of this Kazakh family travelled for thousands of kilometres and spent a fortune to emigrate to the Levant”. Then, we hear a small boy read verses from the Koran before we see around 20 children, including babies just a few months old, seated on the ground next to teenage jihadists. We also see young girls wearing veils, some wearing the niqab. After this, we see the small boy who has been reciting the Koran; he appears to be not older than six.
At 2:57, a young man who goes by the war name “Abdel-Rahman the Kazakh” explains why his family has come to Syria. He says he wants to “fulfil his duty as set out by the precepts of Islam”. He continues by reciting a verse on the glory of martyrs, whose ranks he hopes “to join as soon as possible to ascend to paradise”. At 5:07, “Abu Khaled the Kazakh”, another young jihadist who appears to be a bit older, says he too wants “to die as a martyr”.
Foreign jihadists generally go by a war name that includes their country of origin. In this case, their war names indicate these men most probably came from Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia that is about 5,000 kilometres from Syria.
Later in the video, we hear in the background a song on the glory of international jihad, listing “battlegrounds” from the Philippines to the Sahel, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Caucasus, Bosnia and, of course, the Levant, that is, Syria.
The video then moves on to a third jihadist, “Seif al-Din the Kazakh”, who explains that “it is every Muslim’s duty to join jihad to defend Muslim lands across the world when they come under attack.”
At 13:22, “Abu Hafiz the Kazakh” thanks God for “allowing the family to emigrate and to be together in Syria to fulfill its duty of jihad”.
This is the first time that a video showing an entire family of foreign jihadists has been published. Usually, jihadists travel alone – or in couples, in rare cases – to conflict zones. The fighters in this family are presented as candidates for martyrdom, or suicide attacks, as shown by a reference to Abu Zunair al-Madani, @halb_1 on Twitter, at 15:39 in the video. The Saudi blew himself up in mid-September in Nabak, in the Qalamoun region west of Damascus.