Recruiting professionals: Doctors join the ISIS fight

News of British and Canadian medical students travelling to Syria to join ISIS this week took Westerners by surprise.

There are many tales of young people on the fringes of society-- the down-and-out fleeing to Syria to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

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Medical students, however, are generally middle class and well-educated. But their training does not preclude them from being recruited to the terror organization.

In fact, it makes them more desired targets.


This is not the first time highly trained people have gone to Syria. Last June, the Islamic State group put out the call for highly trained professionals, such as engineers, doctors and lawyers to join theircause. In June, a video surfaced of an aspiring British medical student trying to recruit new jihadis to join ISIS.

According to his father, the young Canadian -- identified as Ismail Hamdoun -- had been accepted to four universities to study medicine, but he chose not to go and travelled to Syria instead.

In August came news that an Israeli-Arab doctor who joined ISIS had died fighting with the group. And India was rocked by news last summer of two engineering students, belonging to families of doctors, who took up fighting for ISIS near Fallujah.

What makes this case different, according to Melanie Smith, of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is that such a large group made the trip together.


While ISIS attracts foreign fighters from all over the globe, these new members often don't speak Arabic. English-speaking doctors are needed for these fighters to get the medical care they need.

"The language barrier is a big cause of disconnect on the ground between native inhabitants and Western migrants," Smith told CTV Monday. "These medical students might be able to bridge the gap between these two populations."


Many people leaving to join ISIS are motivated by a desire for change. Doctors are no different, says Afzal Ashraf, of the Royal United Services Institute. “They tend to want to be courageous, and make the world a better place. ISIS represents to them a better world order.”

Still, it is unknown what this latest group of doctors are doing in Syria. “They may just have responded to the fact that there are many innocent civilians within ISIS controlled territories,” says Ashraf. “They could be going to work there to helpwith the humanitarian crisis in the region.”

While it is unclear what exactly their role will be in the region, the call for highly-trained professional to join the terror group continues as the group hopes to build a functioning Islamic State.


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