When a Dutch journalist was kidnapped in Syria last month, he discovered his captors hailed from countries as far-flung as Britain. An increasing number of foreign jihadists are setting up operations in Syria.
Comedies about British lads with working class Birmingham accents playing jihadists in some exotic Muslim land have been made in the past. Except this time, it was real, not remotely funny, and it happened in Syria — just as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad predicted.
For Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans, the absurdist nightmare began on July 19, shortly after he crossed the border from Turkey into Syria along with British photographer John Cantlie.
The two journalists were kidnapped by a group of men and taken to a jihadist camp in northern Syria. But very quickly, Oerlemans realised there was something odd about their kidnappers.
“Almost immediately we realised they were not from Syria,” said Oerlemans in a phone interview with FRANCE 24 days after he was released. “Some of them said they were from Bangladesh, some of them were from the UK and they had Birmingham accents, while others may have been from Pakistan. They were a real mix. ”