From social media activist to the Islamic State group

From social media activist to the Islamic State group
Feature: The broad outlines of Mahmoud Ghandour's journey from activist to humanitarian to political prisoner to Islamic State group fighter is traceable through his presence on social media.
3 min read
21 February, 2015
Ghandour was very active on Facebook [Composite]
Mahmoud Ghandour, a well-known handsome young man active on social media, has joined his friend Islam Yaken to fight for the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis). Media reports on Ghandour's journey to Syria differ, but what has been confirmed is that the young Egyptian left Cairo for Syria to "support the mujahideen brothers".

Other social media users attempted to understand the circumstances that led Ghandour to join the IS group. Hundreds of users visited his Facebook page only to conclude that he was now a different person. He had gone to Syria in 2013 on a humanitarian convoy before being arrested upon his return to Cairo. He returned to Syria when he was released.
Egyptian youth joining the IS after being released from regime jails is normal. Oppression creates terrorism.
- Twitter user

Many people blamed Ghandour's imprisonment for his radicalisation.

One Twitter user wrote: "Egyptian youth joining the IS after being released from regime jails is normal. Oppression creates terrorism."

Ahmed Mahoud, another Twitter user, wrote that "you might be unjustly imprisoned and come out having had enough. It might justify you fighting the oppressive regime but it does not justify joining the IS."

By tracing Ghandour's social media presence, one is able to discover a young man who listened to popular music, went out with girls and loved football, acting in and uploading funny videos to YouTube.

However, the young man later replaced all that with religious rhetoric and pictures showing "the storming of a Safavid checkpoint on the border with Al Saloul". Safavid is a derogatory term for Shias, while Al Saloul is a derogatory term used to refer to the Saudi royal family.

Some Twitter users mocked Ghandour's radicalism, demonstrating popular contempt for people who join radical organisations. 

"People always choose the harder path. Mahmoud Ghandour could have been an infamous serial killer here instead of going through all that trouble," wrote Ahmed Gad.

Another user posted: "Mahmoud Ghandour's journey goes from from stealing tweets to a terrorist with the IS".

Many Facebook users wondered whether Ghandour had really joined the IS group, only for the news to be confirmed by Ghandour himself who wrote on his Facebook page two days ago: "The best thing about the beheading of the Christians in Libya at the hand of the lions of the Islamic State is that the Egyptian army has got involved. Come here darling."

Ghandour followed Islam Yaken to join the ranks of the IS. It seems the road between Egypt and Syria is increasingly well travelled.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.