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Kurdish leaders say poverty 'biggest threat,' driving Syrians into arms of IS

Offers of money by the Islamic State to join its ranks prove "irresistible" to those hit hard by Syria's collapsed economy.
Children are pictured in the northern city of Raqqa, the former Syrian capital of the Islamic State, on Dec. 19, 2021.
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AL-HASAKAH/RAQQA, Syria — A man being led by security guards shuffles into an interrogation cell in a military prison in the Kurdish-administered city of Hasakah in northeastern Syria. His hands are cuffed, and his head is shrouded in a black hood. He was arrested at his home in the city of Raqqa and brought here on Oct. 2 on charges of membership in the Islamic State (IS).

The guards escorting him remove the hood. He has ruddy cheeks, thick brown hair and a beard. Ahmed (a pseudonym, as prison authorities would not let him reveal his real name) sat down for an interview with Al-Monitor on a recent afternoon and described why he joined IS more than two years after the jihadis lost Baghouz — the last patch of territory in their collapsed caliphate — to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in March 2019. “I did it for the money,” the 24-year-old father of three said. “Because of the drought, my farm collapsed. I had a lot of debts.”

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