Dutch ISIS member: The attack on the Kurds was our end

"I still have not understood why ISIS fought the Kurds. There was no force other than the Kurds that could have defeated us," tells Dutch jihadist Yago Alexandre Riedijk in SDF captivity.

One of the ISIS jihadists captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the last ISIS enclave of al-Bagouz is Dutch Yago Alexandre Riedijk. He is responsible for numerous massacres and is the husband of Shamima Begum, who was stripped of her British citizenship and prohibited entry to the UK.

ANF talked to Riedjik in one of the high security prisons controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. The 27-year-old joined the "Islamic State" (ISIS) in Syria at the end of 2014. He does not want to tell the name he used at the ISIS. On January 21, 2019, he was captured by the SDF together with Shamima Begum.

Sentenced to eight years imprisonment in the Netherlands

According to reports of Dutch intelligence services, Riedjik played an active role in the ISIS and was involved in various massacres. Due to his membership in the Islamist organization he has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment in the Netherlands. Until his joining the ISIS, he lived in Arnhem. There he met a Muslim woman and converted to Islam at the age of 17. He then went to visit mosques in Arnhem, where he came into contact with Salafists.

Turkish and Moroccan mosques in Arnhem

According to his own account, Riedjik often visited a Moroccan mosque and a Turkish mosque called Ayasofya in Arnhem. The religious education given there represented a turning point in his life, he says. From 2013, he had contact with people who had joined jihadist groups in Syria. Without giving any details, he tells of his way to Syria: "At the end of 2014 I took the train to Germany, from there I traveled by plane to Istanbul and later to Antep. At the airport in Antep I was stopped by police. They asked me a few questions, then they let me go, although they knew that I would continue to Syria. Later, ISIS members I had contacted over the internet picked me up from the hotel in Antep and took me to a location where there were dozens of people who came from other countries to join the ISIS. In the evening, thanks to the ISIS members, we were able to cross the border into Syria without any problem. Right on the other side, armed ISIS members received us and took us to a guest house in Jarablus.”

Marriage with 15-year-old Shemama Begum

After three days, Riedjik was brought from Jajablus to Raqqa, where he received two months of military and Sharia training at a camp. Afterwards he took over actively every task assigned to him by the ISIS. In Raqqa he married 15-year-old British citizen Shemama Begum. He says that they had two children, one of whom was killed in al-Bagouz and the other died from illness at SDF-controlled Hol Camp, where Shemama Begum is currently staying. As Riedjik says, he became known in the "Islamic State" within a short time and used a weapon. Where he fought and which massacres he was involved in, he does not tell.

Murdered civilians flaunted in Raqqa

Riedjik does not want to speak of his own killings. Commenting on the civilian massacres in Raqqa, he said: "ISIS flaunted the bodies of murdered civilians in the city center to spread fear. On every dead body was a paper with a writing explaining for what offense he had been punished. The murdered people were all civilian Muslims. Many were accused of being an agent.”

Torture in ISIS prison

As Riedjik states, he was arrested for wanting to leave the ISIS. He was imprisoned for about seven months and was allegedly tortured: "There were massacres outside, but what was happening in prison was terrible. I cannot tell. Most of what I did not know about the ISIS before, I learned there, but I cannot speak of that.”

"No terrorist organization"

Although Riedjik says he regrets his joining the ISIS, he does not regard it as a terrorist organization as a whole. Despite the numerous massacres in which he was involved, he does not consider himself guilty.

“Attacking the Kurds was a mistake”

Riedjik describes the attack on the Kurds as a "historical mistake" of the ISIS: "I still did not understand why ISIS fought against the Kurds. There was no force in the area other than the Kurds that could have defeated us. I do not know why this mistake was made. For ISIS, it had no use whatsoever to attack the Kurds. The attack on the Kurds was our end.” 

“All needs covered by Turkey”

The ISIS has been supported by Turkey and many other states, says Riedjik: "For example, we fought against the regime, but at the same time we sold it oil. We had relationships beyond the obvious with the Free Syrian Army. Most of our weapons needs were covered through this organization. The ISIS has sold a large part of the oil to Turkey. All the needs of the ISIS were covered through Turkey. I think that there was an agreement between ISIS and Turkey that nobody knew. This agreement was based on: 'Do not interfere in my affairs and do fight the Kurds, then I will cover all your needs.' So it was. ISIS both sold oil and covered all its needs through Turkey.”