An Australian member of the Islamic State group (IS) says he was convinced to go to Syria to fight after attending “charity banquets” in Australia.
“Back then in Australia, Syria was all over the place, everybody was talking about Syria,” said the man, who gives his name as Jamil Ahmad Shqeir.
“Everybody was really concerned about Syria.
“That’s what influenced me, at the mosque, the speech would move me.
“I have never been to demos in Australia. I went to charity banquets.”
Shqeir told a Syrian television reporter that he was able to easily travel to Syria to join the conflict in its earliest stages.
“A lot of people helped me get in. I didn’t want to sit and watch.”
He said he left Australia for Syria in early 2013.
He fought with another jihadist group, Jabat al Nusra, before joining its rival IS because he agreed with its goal of creating an Islamic caliphate in the region.
“That seduced a lot of people,” he said.
He told Syria’s North Press Agency that Turkish soldiers allowed him to cross the border into Syria because they were opposed to the Assad regime.
“They stopped us at the border and checked the car,” he said.
“The guards searched the bags. The Turkish soldiers said ‘if you want to do that to Bashar (al Assad), go ahead'”.
Shqeir said that when IS commanders discovered he spoke English he was assigned to train foreign fighters.
He said he never saw any IS leaders, and didn’t know about the enslavement and rape of Yazidi women and girls.
“I was far from the communities and was far from Yazidi selling. I didn’t know about it, I haven’t bought Yazidi women,” he said.
He is one of at least seven Australian IS members who are being held in Kurdish prisons in north-west Syria.
North Press Agency has released interviews with four fighters.
Unlike the other interviewees, Shqeir never denies fighting with IS.
Also unlike the other Australians, Shqeir also does not ask to be allowed to return home to face punishment.
“I don’t know about punishment in Australia, it’s an embarrassing question,” he said.