A former ISIS member reveals what life was inside the militant group, the indiscriminate killing, the abuse of female recruits, the discomfort of a life where meals were little more than bread and cheese or oil. He recounts the knife held to his throat by fellow fighters who demanded he recite a particular Quranic verse on Islamic warfare to prove himself.
"It was totally different from what they said jihad would be like," said the man, Ghaith, who asked to be identified by his first name only for fear of being killed. Ghaith eventually surrendered to Syrian soldiers.
The Associated Press talked to more than a dozen former fighters, their families and lawyers about life in and escape from the Islamic State, many of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
Youssef Akkari used to spend hours in his room in Tunisia listening to religious chants and reading, according to his brother, Mehdi Akkari. One day the family received a message that he was going to Syria. But he lost his glasses and couldn't fight, his brother said, so he was put in charge of preaching jihad to new recruits instead.
After seven months, he began to plot his escape, along with two brothers.
The brothers were discovered and killed. Youssef turned himself in to Kurdish fighters and made his way back to Tunisia, where he felt trapped between police harassment and his terror of the vengeful militants. He returned to Syria and died in an airstrike in October.