A released Islamic State captive, who says he was imprisoned with the two beheaded American journalists in Syria, revealed recently that when ISIS jihadis aren't terrorizing the streets of Raqqa, they spend their downtime watching the children's television program "Teletubbies" and playing child video games.
Former ISIS hostage, Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who was held hostage for 10 months and released by the terrorist group in April of 2014, told BBC News that even though ISIS captors claim to hate America and western ideals, he noticed that the militants' interests were heavily influenced by Western culture.
"The discussions that we had with them, I could just notice that these jihadis have little to do with the local culture— Arab or Muslim culture – they are children of our societies," Henin contended. "They speak our language —I don't mean they speak French or English or German – they have the same cultural references that we have. They watch the same movies as us, play the same video games our children play. They are products of our culture, of our world."
Henin was asked what kind of shows the militants watch and he responded, "It ranges from the Teletubbies to Game of Thrones."
Although ISIS militants and leaders proclaim that many of the atrocities the group commits are acts justified by Islam, Henin also said that the militants had a hard time explaining their own brutal acts and some of them even held regrets.
"I think there was [doubt in their minds], yes," Henin explained. "Also, there was a lot of bad faith because they had to justify themselves and for some of their acts, they were just impossible to justify. I remember with couple of them we had discussions that could show that their convictions were a bit fragile and that they had maybe even had regrets over what they were doing."
Henin also said that he noticed that most ISIS recruits when they first arrive to the caliphate, come with the mindset and belief that they are there to help Syrian "victims". However, they quickly realized the true extent of ISIS' horrific nature.
"I do believe that the initial engagement of many of these fighters is that they truly believe they are going there to help victims and that they will be in position to help," Henin said. "But very quickly, they turn to criminal."
Henin further explained that ISIS acts similar to a street gang when it comes to forcing their new recruits to commit their first atrocious acts. Once the new recruits commit their first heinous acts, they have lost their innocence in regards to ISIS' brutal ways.
"The recruits are fragile people," Henin asserted. "As soon as they arrive, they kind of hook them, and for instance they push them to commit a crime and then there is no way they can turn back."
Henin was asked to talk about his relationship with Mohammed Emwazi, the man believed to be featured in the publicized ISIS beheading videos of American journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, and is notoriously known as "Jihadi John." Because fellow British hostage John Cantlie is still alive and still held captive by the group, Henin did not feel comfortable talking specifically about "Jihadi John."
Although the emergence of Sotloff and Foley's beheading videos did not occur until months after Henin was released by ISIS, he does recall the group executing one Russian hostage, Sergey Gorbunov, that was held captive with them before he was released. Henin added that the rest of the hostages held a small ceremony in Gorbunov's honor.
"Everyone paid tribute to him," Henin said. "John Cantlie spoke first and then we held a minute's silence."
Henin has recently released a children's book called Will Daddy Hedgehog Come Home? He said the idea for the book was written on a piece of cheese wrapping while he was in captivity with fellow French journalist hostage Pierre Torres.
The story derived from a game that the hostages would play that was created by fellow captive David Haines, a british aid worker and was beheaded by the group last September.
"The aim was to say which animal portrays you the best," Henin said. "I spoke about being a hedgehog. I like the idea of [having] good protections — even though the protection of a hedgehog is totally stupid."
"I would make myself into a ball but nothing ever really worked," Henin continued. "As a hostage, you are just a puppet."
The book was released on Wednesday by the French publishing company Flammarion.