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How to lose your mind to ISIS. And then fight to get it back.
It’s far easier to join ISIS than to leave. Mike Giglio and Munzer al-Awad, reporting for BuzzFeed News from the Syrian border, interviewed six defectors as well as two men who are working to help others escape.
Their stories offer insight into how ISIS has managed to attract so many men and women to its self-styled caliphate, and show how a person’s mind can be pulled into extremism and how it can be won back. One of the defectors had given up the war in hopes of starting fresh in Europe. Another, a 13-year-old boy who was rescued from ISIS by his family, remained obsessed with the idea of murdering his so-called infidel neighbors and friends.
Defectors’ voices are rarely heard. Fearful of retribution from ISIS and of arrest by authorities, they stay in hiding, robbing potential recruits of a reality check against the lure of ISIS propaganda. A UK-based researcher who has tracked ISIS defectors and speaks regularly with the parents of ISIS members who say their sons or daughters want to escape said: “I tell them this is the most dangerous thing he or she will do. It’s actually safer for them to stay in Raqqa.”
And a little extra.
ISIS really wants you to know it's operating in Bangladesh. In the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq, ISIS features a Bengali jihadi and a man it claims is leading its operations inside the country, BuzzFeed News’ Anup Kaphle writes. Islamist fundamentalists have killed a number of secular bloggers in Bangladesh since last year.
Read more: How 600,000 documents smuggled out of Syria link the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of people to a written policy approved by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
The U.S. presidential election: No prosecution for Trump’s campaign manager, a new attack ad against the billionaire, and ~another~ Democratic debate.
Clinton and Bernie Sanders are debating tonight, ahead of Tuesday’s primary in New York. If you want to tune in live, here’s how. (If not, we’ll update you tomorrow.)
For the latest news and updates, download the BuzzFeed News app for iOS and Android (available in Canadian, UK, Australian, and U.S. app stores).
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
A paralyzed man can play Guitar Hero using a computer that reads his thoughts.
Ian Burkhart, 24, shouldn’t be able to move his hands at all after being in an accident six years ago that left his arms and legs paralyzed. But now, thanks to computer software that decodes his thoughts and sends the signal to his hands, he’s been able to pick up small objects, swipe a credit card, and even play Guitar Hero — albeit in a science lab, BuzzFeed UK’s Kelly Oakes writes.
It’s the first time a person with paralysis has regained movement in their hands and individual fingers using signals from their brain.
Quick things to know:
The mosquito-borne Zika virus definitely causes microcephaly and other brain birth defects, according to U.S. health officials. (BuzzFeed News)
Greenland’s massive ice sheet melted at a record rate this week, after a weather system brought unusually warm temperatures to the Arctic island, raising concerns of an even larger melt this summer. (BuzzFeed News)
If you have any anonymous online identities, be aware: Geotagged posts on just two social media apps are enough to link various accounts held by one person, a new study has found. (BuzzFeed News)
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant ended his 20-season career by scoring 60 points (!), leading the L.A. Lakers to beat the Utah Jazz. (BuzzFeed News) And California’s Golden State Warriors have broken the record for most wins during an NBA season. (BuzzFeed News)
The lack of diversity in TV and film leads has been well-documented. What if we not only wrote more roles for gay characters, but put their images and storylines front and center? “Seeing relatable characters can help a child, or anyone for that matter, become more comfortable with themselves,” BuzzFeed writes. So, a group of LGBT people chose a few of their favorite movie posters — from Superman Returns to Clueless — and had a blast re-creating them. That’s badass.
This letter was edited and brought to you by Natasha Japanwala and Claire Moses. You can always reach us here.