An American described as an ISIS defector says he made a “bad decision” to follow a young woman to Iraq — and claims he left because he doesn’t share the terror organization’s views.
“I don’t see them as good Muslims,” the man identified by Kurdistan 24 television as Mohamad Jamal Khweis, 26, said in a heavily edited interview. “I wanted to go back to America.”
Khweis, the American-born son of Palestinian immigrants in Virginia, spoke calmly and even smiled as he described his odyssey.
He said he left for Europe in December and wound up in Turkey where he met an Iraqi girl who said she was from Mosul — which was seized by ISIS militants in June 2014.
“She knows somebody who could take us from Turkey to Syria and then from Syria to Mosul, so I decided to go with her,” he said.
They took a bus to the Turkish border and then a taxi to Syria that was arranged by the woman’s sister, who had been married to an ISIS member, Khweis said.
What followed was a series of stays in houses with other foreigners — including Asians and Russians — who surrendered their passports and identification and were given nicknames.
Khweis eventually was transferred to Mosul with 10 other men who took a 10-hour bus ride to get to the ISIS-held Iraqi city, he said.
Once there, the indoctrination started.
“There was an imam who taught us the sharia and the religion,” he said. “I didn’t complete the whole sharia. I didn’t agree with their ideology and that’s when I wanted to escape.”
While the Kurds have described Khweis as an ISIS fighter, he made no mention of any combat activities.
“Our daily life was prayer, eating and learning about the religion for eight hours,” he said. “It was pretty hard to live in Mosul. It’s not like the Western countries … There’s no smoking.”
Khweis said that after a month in Mosul, he found someone who promised to get him to the Turkish border and he sought out the Kurds because he thought they would get him to America.
“I made a bad decision to go with the girl and go to Mosul. At the time I made a decision to go because I wasn’t thinking straight, and on the way there I regretted — I wanted to go back,” he said.
The Kurds announced his surrender earlier this week, and his uncle confirmed it was his nephew in footage that was released.
The uncle, Kamal Khweis, told NBC News that he was glad to see his nephew renounce ISIS in the interview.
“He is not with those bad people,” he said.
It is unclear if Khweis will be returned to the U.S. or prosecuted. His uncle said he is anxious to have him back on American soil, and in the interview, Khweis sounded relieved to have Mosul in the rearview mirror.
“My message to the American people is the life in Mosul, it’s really, really bad. The people [who] were controlling Mosul don’t represent the religion,” he said.
“Daesh, ISIS, ISIL, they don”t represent the religion,” he said — using three interchangeable names for the terror group.