Usually, by the time the public learns the names and biographies of Islamic State militants, or radicals from other groups who attack civilians, they are already dead, and so unable to speak for themselves, except occasionally in the ritualized form of martyrdom videos or manifestoes posted online. This week, however, a Dutch citizen who says he is fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Syria, and who documents his life in the self-proclaimed caliphate on Tumblr, has been taking questions from readers.
Israfil Yilmaz, who is of Turkish descent and who abandoned a career in the Royal Netherlands Army in 2013 to join Islamist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, has turned to Tumblr since his accounts on Instagram, Ask.fm and Twitter were suspended.
The exchanges reveal that the former soldier is well aware of his notoriety back home in the Netherlands. Asked his age recently, he referred his questioner to the Dutch government’s list of banned terrorists, to which his full name and details of his birth — Salih Yahya Gazali Yilmaz, born on Sept. 29, 1987, in Brunei — had been added just the week before.