Video Shows Dozens of Fighters 'Deserting' ISIS in Syria

ISIS Syria Middle East Islamic State
In the video, the purported ISIS deserter says that he and the dozens of men behind him are fleeing because of how they were treated by the militant group. Reuters

Dozens of Islamic State militant group (ISIS) fighters have defected from the group in Aleppo to join a rival Islamist group, according to amateur footage released on Sunday.

The video shows a purported deserter holding up his ISIS identity card, while dozens of men walk along a dusty road in the background. He tells the person behind the camera why he and the men behind him decided to leave the group.

"They killed us, they called us infidels, they bothered us a lot, even in our homes, they doubted us, we supported them and they doubted us," the alleged militant says in a video obtained by Reuters.

The men, whose nationalities are unknown, purportedly left to join an unidentified rival Islamist group. The precise location of the defection in Syria is also unclear, but the group controls large areas of eastern Syria and is battling Kurdish fighters and rival rebel groups in the country's northern regions.

Between January 2014 and August 2015, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), a British think tank, monitored 58 public defections from ISIS, with a third of those consisting of Syrian nationals (21) and nine coming from western Europe and Australia.

ICSR's report called for measures to protect defectors in order to encourage more fighters to feel that they could leave the group without reprisal.

Last week, ISIS executed eight of its Dutch fighters for alleged desertion attempts, saying they had been charged with "desertion and mutiny," according to the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS).

Many foreign fighters have traveled to join ISIS's caliphate—which straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border—but realize when they arrive that they face a harsh reality very different from what they see in the group's online propaganda, causing them to decide they want to return home.

Reported defections have shown that the militant group is not the entirely united ideological body that it tries to portray itself as in messages to potential recruits.