The ReturnedThey left to wage jihad, now they're back
The Returned
They left to wage jihad, now they're back
Translated by Gregory Flanders
Since 2012, hundreds of men and women have left Western countries to join jihadist groups fighting in Syria. Many are still there, many have been killed, but some have chosen to return to their countries of origin. French journalist David Thomson met some of those who came back. Bilel, Yassin, Zoubeir, Lena, each has a different story to tell. Some have returned disgusted by the violence of the Syrian battlefields, or the terrorist attacks that have struck across Europe; they try to become forgotten, living under extreme surveillance. Others return seriously wounded or psychologically destroyed. Others still are in jail, a breeding ground for broader radicalization. And some have come back to continue to carry out jihad in Europe. In utmost secrecy, David Thomson gathered their testimonies and recounts them in this remarkable and revealing book.

With ISIS losing ground on all fronts, the steady flow of jihadists returning to Europe represents one of the greatest challenges facing countries across the continent. This nuanced analysis of the social, religious, political, familial and psychological factors that push people to violent extremism is more necessary now than ever. It will be essential reading for all those seeking to understand how we might address this threat.
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  • April 2018
  • 275 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509526901
  • Paperback $19.95
  • 9781509526918
  • Open eBook $19.95
  • 9781509526949
Table of Contents
The Protagonists


Part One. Bilel

Leaving the Islamic State

The Arrival in Syria

Daily life in the Islamic State

The rupture after the Paris attacks

Part Two. Yassin

A bullet in his stomach

‘Anything to bring him back’

‘Salam alaykum, my son is in Mayadin.’

‘He weighed less than 40 kilos’

The French doctors in Raqqa

Running backwards

‘Now you’re going to tell us what really happened.’

Part Three. Zubeir

Zubeir, 20 years old, the repentant jihadist

Being a jihadist means feeling important

The tipping point

Jihadist seeks YF for marriage

‘LOL jihad’

‘I found ISIS at Fleury-Merogis’

The Islamic State, prison ward

Prison, jihadist territory

‘I’m afraid that people are afraid of me’

Part Four. The Women

After jihad, a ‘quiet’ return to classes for Safya

Sharia is sharia, that’s all!’

Lena, the women and the desire to kill

‘I felt powerful. Better than everyone else’

Express weddings and quick divorces

In the marriage factory

Part Five. Kevin and Quentin

The former choirboy from Brittany


Part Six. Those Who Didn’t Return

Dope, Rap, Nashid and Terrorism

From the French army to the caliphate



About the Author
David Thomson is a journalist who reported on the Arab Spring and war in Libya for Radio France Internationale. He received the 2016 Grand Prix de la Presse Internationale, awarded by the French Association of Foreign Media (APE).
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‘Thrilling … a major contribution to the debate’.
Financial Times

‘This season’s publishing sensation’.
Le Figaro

‘A unique and illuminating work on this unsettling subject’.
Le Monde

‘France’s favorite public intellectual’.
Foreign Policy

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