The secret lives of former French jihadists

FRANCE 24 brings you a special documentary one year after the January 2015 terror attacks in France. For nine months, investigative journalist Clarisse Feletin sought an answer to the questions: How did we get here? How did French citizens end up radicalised? How were they able to kill other French citizens in the name of religion? Her video provides rare eyewitness accounts of former jihadists.


Normally, repentant jihadists never talk, for fear of reprisals. But for the first time, some of them agreed to break the silence. Speaking anonymously, they gave us extraordinary accounts of what they have seen or experienced.

These young people recounted the reality of the Islamic State group, a regime as totalitarian as that of the Nazis, where each member, deprived of freedom, becomes an object to the regime and where individual life has no value.

We spoke to Anna, a 17-year-old French woman, who lived in Raqqa, Syria, when we contacted her. She regrets having made "the biggest mistake of her life" by going to the Islamist fighters’ stronghold. She thought she would find heaven on earth, but now calls on other French women not to join the jihadists.

We also met Sarah, 20, who managed to escape the clutches of the IS group in Syria, after having experienced humiliation and horror. Mehdi, 21, who joined the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front spoke to us from the French prison where he is incarcerated today. Finally, on the Turkish border, we met Nourredine, who tries to save those seeking to leave the Syrian hell.

>>Also watch our exclusive documentary: "Syrian student risks her life to film IS group stronghold"

We also met personalities who have been trying for several years to fight against the radicalisation of young people and seek to understand its mechanisms.

Click on the video player above to see the full documentary.

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