Dozens of Dutch jihadists are housed in a luxurious villa in one of the richest neighbourhoods of the Syrian city of Aleppo. They receive salary and training, and have to stay in service for at least one year, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reports in its April 20 paper edition.
The newspaper spoke to several Dutch parents whose sons – and in two cases, daughters – travelled to Syria to join the over two year old rebellion against the Assad government. Before leaving their homeland, the youngsters sent their families vague messages such as, “You won’t hear from us in a while. We are going on a training course. Don’t worry”, or cryptic notes like, “See you in paradise”.
One of the parents recently received a photo from their son showing Dutch fighters at the edge of a swimming pool of a luxurious villa “in Haleb” (Arabic for Aleppo) which, according to the fighters, has been made available by “a rich Saudi”.
They also told their parents not to worry about their livelihood: “We receive one hundred dollars a month.” For the rest, they are reluctant in giving information. The parents assume that their phone conversations are recorded.
“The villa looks like a ‘Holland House’ where dozens of Dutch live”, they say.
“Ahmad”, a Syrian activist who on condition of anonymity spoke to de Volkskrant, said he knows the villa with the Dutch men. According to him, they are part of the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, the rebel extremist group with close ties to Al Qaeda that has been at the helm of the fight against the Syrian government.
“They live separated from other fighters because they don’t speak Arabic”, Ahmad said. “Only during the fighting they move among the others. There are also other non-Arabic fighters in the battalions, Afghans, Chechens, Turks. They take the oath to become anti-government fighters to Mohammed al-Jolani, the emir of Al-Nusra. Their freedoms as for where and how to fight are limited. But nobody goes to war without training.”
The concerned parents state that jihadists recruiting for jihad in the Netherlands should be criminalized.
Earlier this year, the chief of Dutch intelligence agency AIVD warned that Dutch citizens who are fighting with rebels in Syria could return home battle-hardened, traumatized and even further radicalized.
“I think many of the jihad fighters who go there realize very quickly it is less romantic than they were led to believe,” he said. “But at the same time they realize there is no way back.”