Shabazz Suleman, 21, disappeared while on a family holiday to Turkey three years ago and had been in Raqqa until its recent fall and now wants to come home
The father of a young Briton who fled to Syria to fight for ISIS has warned about the dangers of being ‘brainwashed’ through the internet – and that he feels sympathy for those who join the death cult.
Shabazz Suleman joined Daesh three years ago but is now desperate to return to the UK to face justice.
His father Afzal Suleman, 46, said he regretted buying a phone for his son who he claims was radicalised on Twitter.
Suleman went missing on a family holiday to Turkey three years ago and has spent three years in northern Syria. He claims that he has renounced its twisted doctrine and wants to return to Britain.
His father, who works as a mechanic, said: ‘I feel sympathy for the people that go there… this is what young kids do [when they] see people being killed, being gassed.
On his own son’s choice to join ISIS, Mr Suleman said: ‘I don’t think people knew what was behind the doors [at the time].’
He was held by the Turkish secret service before being exchanged with 180 others for 49 Turkish hostages captured at the embassy in Mosul, northern Iraq.
Mr Suleman said that he had intermittent contact with his son during the three years and he believed that Suleman had not killed or tortured anyone.
‘If he has seen that side of things he wouldn’t have joined them. He was thinking of going there and helping people.’ He said that his son always had a keen interest in politics but that he had increasingly spent time alone in his room on his mobile phone.
‘The biggest mistake I made was buying a phone for him. He was in his bedroom on it all the time.
‘You don’t really keep an eye on their phone. I believe [his radicalisation] was through Twitter.
The former grammar school pupil said he wants to come home and be punished for joining the terror group having become a ‘disillusioned jihadi’.
It came days after a minister suggested the only way of dealing with British fighters who have gone to Syria or Iraq will be to kill them in almost every case.
Rory Stewart, an international development minister, said UK citizens who had travelled to the war-torn country were a ‘serious danger’ to Britain.
Suleman, a former pupil from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, told The Times that he had become disillusioned with jihadism and chose to desert the terrorist group.
Via encrypted messages he told the newspaper he went through ‘intense’ indoctrination by the group, adding: ‘I never thought I was being brainwashed until I saw the way they treat other Sunnis.’
He also revealed jihadis are killing deserters.
Suleman, who is thought to have left ISIS-controlled territory and be in the hands of a Turkish militia, reportedly admits undergoing weapons training and carrying out guard duties, but denies taking part in killings.
Suleman admits undergoing weapons training and carrying out guard duties but his family denies he was a fighter
His father, Afzal Suleman, 46, said he knew ‘for a fact’ that his son had become a civilian and had not been on the battlefield for two years.
‘(He) never killed anyone or anything,’ Mr Suleman told the newspaper.
‘At the end of the day if he has committed a crime he should go to court. We just want him home.’
The 21-year-old teenager, who was described by his old school as ‘a valued, hardworking student’, had achieved good A-level results last summer and had a place lined up to study at Keele University, where he had wanted to study International Relations.
Former pupils at his old school include Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling, comedian Jimmy Carr, England rugby players Nick Beale, Matt Dawson, and Tom Rees, golfer Luke Donald and singer Ian Dury.
Suleman, who had travelled to Aleppo, Syria with an aid convoy in 2013, is believed to have been radicalised by jihadis he met on Twitter.
He is also thought to have attended the Muslim Education Centre in High Wycombe, where one of the British men convicted in the 2006 transatlantic liquid bomb plot also attended. It is around the corner from the £400,000 detached family home he grew up in.
His parents had reported him missing to both British police and the Turkish authorities, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had also reported him missing.
Suleman, who received weapons training at a two-week Sharia training camp, said he had been caught by security services at the Syrian border. He said he was visited twice by Turkish intelligence agency MIT, fined, and told he was going to be deported.
He went to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe (pictured) and achieved good A-level results land had a place lined up to study at Keele University before going to Syria
He said he was held along with 35 other ISIS fighters at an ‘open’ prison in Sanliurfa, around an hour from the Turkish-Syrian border.
Suleman said he had been given the choice of being deported, or being part of the ISIS exchange. He then went to Raqqa where his duties involved being on sentry guard.
This week Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, called for a focus on ‘reintegration’ in cases where authorities have decided individuals who return should not face prosecution.
Mr Hill said it was right that security services have left space for those who travelled out of a sense of naivety, at a young age and who return in a ‘state of utter disillusionment’ to be diverted away from the criminal courts.
A report released this week said Britain has one of the largest populations of returning fighters and others who travelled to join Islamic State.
Around 850 UK-linked individuals ‘of national security concern’ made the journey to engage with the conflict in Syria, with just under half of those believed to have come back.
The figure of approximately 425 returnees is the fourth highest for individual nations in an analysis published by the Soufan Centre and the Global Strategy Network.