Faced with enormous pressure from the global coalition and following its defeats on the battlefield, recently numerous Islamic State fighters who operated in Syria and Iraq have deserted. Some have returned to their families. Others, from outside the Middle East, have either left for other countries in the region or returned home.

At first, taking an aggressive stance on this phenomenon, ISIS made various approaches to those who have left and appealed to them to return. It released videos harshly criticizing them, describing them as deserters who abandoned the front at the height of the campaign and warning them about the punishment that awaits them in the hereafter. In one video, a speaker expresses astonishment that members of ISIS could leave and return to “countries of unbelief” that are beyond ISIS control.

One of the videos implies that deserters are considered to be among those who have denied their religion, supplying a quotation from the Koran that condemns those who leave Islam, which reads: “Oh you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion … [Koran 5:54].” The message conveyed is that those fighters have committed a serious crime by abandoning the campaign. The expectation was that they would fight to the death.

However, several weeks later, the organization softened its stance, apparently so as not to completely sever its connections with those who leave and to ensure that they still have the option of returning to the fold or to work for ISIS in a different arena.

Thus, an editorial in the official ISIS weekly Al-Naba stated that those who left should not be seen as apostates, as long as it has not been proved that they have transgressed the principles of the faith.

This is a further indication of the Islamic State’s lack of manpower, which is apparent in a recent video posted by the organization in which women are seen participating in the fighting against the Kurds in Syria. The video is meant to pressure the men who are unwilling to take up arms.

The following is a review of some of the most prominent ISIS references to the phenomenon of desertion:

ISIS operative: Deserters want to save themselves, even at price of harming Islam and women’s honor

On Feb. 1, ISIS Al-Khair Province (Deir Al-Zour, Syria) published a video praising the steadfastness of its fighters, the main message of which is a condemnation of the fighters who have deserted.

As the video begins, the narrator says: “Adhering to the straight path is grace that Allah bestows upon His believers. Since Allah, with his ancient wisdom, knows that there are those who will abandon His religion, he informed them [the believers] that this will not harm Allah in the slightest, because He does not need them but they need Him, and the faith that they have adhered to is no more than the grace that he bestows upon them. [As it is written in Koran 5:54]: ‘Oh you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion—Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic … ‘ “


ISIS fighter rebukes those who desert the battlefield.

The rest of this MEMRI report can be viewed here.