Western Muslims fighting in Syria using social media to talk about war
Agence France-Presse in Beirut
Western Muslims fighting in Syria are using social media to share their experiences and encourage others to join them.
On sites including Twitter, Tumblr and Ask.fm they are providing an unusual insight into one aspect of the brutal war.
They describe what they miss about home and extol the virtues they see in fighting with groups that Western governments deem terrorist organisations.
Their public accounts come as Western governments warn about the potential dangers posed by the flow of young Muslims to the fight in Syria.
Ifthekar Jaman, 23, is from the British city of Portsmouth.
On social media, he had openly discussed his desire to leave Britain for Syria. On May 14 he tweeted he had made "touch down" in Turkey before crossing the border.
He identifies himself publicly as fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a group that emerged from al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, but rejects descriptions of the group as extremist. "A man leaves the comfort of his home and everything else behind so that he can help an oppressed people. Sounds heroic, until you add in 'Muslim man.' Then he's a terrorist/extremist," he tweeted in November.
He tells women they can come to Syria to help the opposition, though not in combat, and he reports meeting fighters from France, America, Canada, Australia and Finland.
"I knew only a tiny bit of Arabic," he assured one questioner worried about not speaking the language. "There are many like you and you will fit in."
Such public online activity is a relatively new development, according to Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Janes' Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.
Earlier this year, there "were certainly Western foreign fighters in Syria but they were practically invisible", he said.
"Literally over the last few months or so, that's started to be … increasingly visible.
"It's remarkably open. I think that's particularly unusual in comparison to other conflicts."