A fascinating piece in Der Spiegel tracks one German would-be jihadi, who uprooted his family to the infamous Waziristan in order to live the life of a true mujahid, only to find that his religious heroes were illiterate, incompetent and generally lived so poorly that, literally, he feared for the lives of his family.
After an investigation by German authorities drove his family from Ulm, Germany and then Egypt, Mr. “Peter B.” and his family packed up for Pakistan to start again among the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But upon arrival, B. refused to fight, looking only to recruit, so al-Qaeda (rather ungraciously) kicked him out of his apartment. His family then moved into a mud house, dodged drones, and coped with the less-than-stellar infrastructure of Paksitan’s tribal mountain villages:
When a faucet breaks in Waziristan, B. says, it stays broken. When the bus is supposed to arrive at 8 a.m., it never shows up. “They simply have no organizational system like we do,” he explains.
At the time, [his wife] Sara was seven months’ pregnant. B. took her to a place they called the hospital. The maternity ward was a long hallway with open doors and screaming women, where amniotic fluid mixed with blood and feces was washed into an open gutter. “It was like the Middle Ages,” Sara says. “When I saw it, I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to give birth to a child there.”
Peter B. is just one of hundreds of German jihadis returning home to face the authorities after life in Waziristan became too much to bear:
Those who had gone first then appeared in Internet videos to recruit more volunteers. They promised a paradise on earth, or at least a precursor to it. For German law-enforcement officials, the combatants were a nightmare, and they were viewed as the biggest threat to domestic security.
But this trend has been reversing itself for some time now. The number of volunteers is declining, while the number of those making the journey back home is growing.
It’s a side of the narrative that’s not often considered and the disillusionment of people like Mr. and Ms. B is a bit like what happened to so many starry eyed Cold War lefties once they actually got a look at the nastiness of Soviet life. When life in a Turkish prison is preferable to a free life in the Wild West of Waziristan some people may actually ask if the dirty, disorganized, illiterate fanatics waging “holy war” by stoning adulteresses and fighting polio vaccination have the slightest idea what God really wants for mankind.