Recruiting for the self-proclaimed Islamic State terror group is evidently quite profitable: some supporters are paid vast sums of money for bringing valuable new members to the violent organization, a UN body reported on Friday.
The working group on the use of mercenaries, set up by the UN Commission on Human Rights, has come out with fresh figures on ISIL recruitment practices, summarizing what the United Nations’ war experts discovered after working in Belgium.
According to their report, Belgium appears to have the highest per capita rate in Europe of people who fight for IS. Some 500 fighters have travelled to join jihadists in Iraq and Syria from this small European kingdom, according to Elzbieta Karska, the head of the UN working group.
On average, the foreign fighters are 23-years-old and younger, according to a report presented at the media event held in Brussels. Fighters generally come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, with the level of unemployment among these youth as high as 24%, the report read.
“Among the motivations identified are religious convictions, humanitarian reasons, the need for a sense of belonging and acceptance, the search for a livelihood, escaping a criminal background, and adventure,” the reports described.
The recruitment of foreign fighters for IS in Belgium took place in three consecutive waves. The first one, in 2010, was led by the Sharia4Belgium association, later broken up by local law enforcement. The next wave in 2012 was characterized by peer recruitment, whereas the latest, third wave from 2014 through today has used “informal networks of friends and family,” as well as social media, the report revealed.
“A significant degree of recruitment currently occurs through friends and family in Syria, who are also paid on the basis of the number of persons they recruit and on whether the recruits subsequently marry,” the head of the working group revealed.
“We have heard… about situations where recruiters were paid from two, three thousand to 10,000 dollars depending on… who was recruited,” Karska said, adding that an amount was dependent on the concrete qualifications of a recruit.
“If somebody was well educated like computer specialists or doctors, they were paid more,” the chair-rapporteur of the working group highlighted. Her colleague, Patricia Arias, specified that the payments were made by ISIL.
UN experts told journalists the number of male fighters travelling to fight for Daesh has declined from around 10 per month in 2012 to approximately 4-5 at present day.
They said they did not have figures reflecting the number of women who joined the ranks of jihadists in Syria and Iraq, but Karska and her colleagues pointed out that there is an increase in girls and women departing from Belgium to become wives of jihadists or deliver medical treatment to ill and wounded militants.
In July, a Brussels court sentenced 30 people convicted of recruiting militants for ISIL jihadist group to jail terms ranging from 10 months to 20 years. According to the ruling, the convicted were members of a terrorist cell operating in the Belgian town of Verviers, from where they sent would-be militants to Syria.
A court in the Belgian city of Antwerp in May sentenced four Muslim women to five years in prison and fined them a total of 15,000 euros ($17,000) for joining IS. In March 2014, the women traveled to Syria to marry IS militants and later joined the ranks of female armed groups operated by the terrorist organization. The court also sentenced three other Muslim women to suspended prison terms of up to 30 months and fines on charges of involvement in IS activities.