The Current

Interview with ISIS fighter reveals motivation intensely personal, not religion

At a time when American investigators are still trying to piece together the attraction to ISIS that is believed to have led to last week's massacre in California, we hear from Lydia Wilson on what she learns when she seeks out such fighters to understand what it is that drives them.
Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014, to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq. (Reuters)

As you've been hearing in the news, U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the nation is getting mixed reviews. He's vowing to destroy ISIS but offering no dramatic shift in strategy.

In the aftermath of attacks in California... in Paris... in Lebanon...  all purportedly done in the name of ISIS.

The question still persists. 

What makes someone take up arms for ISIS?

What drives them to kill, and be killed, for its so called vision?

It's a subject that Lydia Wilson is investigating thoroughly — and which has taken her to some very dark places, including interviews with ISIS fighters awaiting execution inside a prison in Northern Iraq.

Lydia Wilson is a research fellow at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at the University of Oxford.​ She's also field director at Artis International, a research institution that studies politically motivated violence.

This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott.