SANLIURFA, Turkey, July 8 (Reuters) – When truck driver Vehbi Demir was handcuffed by masked Islamists wielding machine guns and driven to an unknown destination, he little imagined he would end up sympathising with the militants’ cause.
Demir was among 32 Turkish truck drivers seized by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last month, as the Sunni insurgents seized territory in an offensive that threatens to break up the country.
But during his 23 days in captivity, Demir, a Turk of Sunni Arab heritage, used his Arabic language skills to interpret between his fellow drivers and their captors.
Brief conversations turned into longer discussions about why the Sunni fighters took up arms against Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and Demir found himself increasingly sympathising with their plight.
“After I spoke to them and heard their stories, I was almost going to ask them to give me a gun and suggest fighting alongside them,” he told Reuters at his home near Sanliurfa.
“They told me how they came home and their wives, sisters were gone. How Maliki’s soldiers did horrible things to their women in front of their eyes. They said Maliki was eventually going to kill them, so they chose to fight…”