Islam Yaken is a 23-year-old man fighting for the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in Iraq. Yaken made waves on social media because of his appearance, which often includes long curly hair, big trendy glasses and a sword. These photos have earned him the moniker the “hipster jihadi.”
ISIS, which rose to infamy fighting against Assadist forces in Syria, has been condemned by a majority of the world for brutal tactics that often include filming beheadings and crucifixions and sharing the footage online.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. He’s an Educated Middle Class Guy From Cairo
Yaken, profiled in the video above from The New York Times, is a young bilingual middle-class man from Cairo, Egypt. Al Arabiya describes his life before joining ISIS as “cosmopolitan,” as he went to high school at the French school Lycee la Liberte, where he graduated in 2009. After that, he attended Ain Shams University, where he completed a law degree in 2013.
2. His Friends Say He Used to Be Fun
Speaking to Al Arabiya, a friend said that Yaken was a funny and respectful person. He also liked trance, house and rap music.
Yaken’s politics have changed over the years as his friend recalls his support of the Egyptian Brotherhood to later referring to them as infidels.
3. He Was a Musclebound Fitness Buff
Yaken’s profile on the Russian social media website VK shows a number of pictures and videos working out and flexing. According to Egyptian Chronicles, he loved going to a gym and even worked as an instructor at his gym in Cairo.
4. He Reportedly Went to Syria to Join ISIS
Suddenly, in 2013 after finishing his degree, he left Egypt and reportedly headed to Syria to join ISIS in the extremist battle against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. He has now been seen fighting in Iraq.
It’s only in the last few weeks, however, that his long hair and glasses have drawn the attention of the western and Egyptian media.
5. The Islamic State Recently Captured Iraq’s Largest Dam
The Islamic State now controls the large portion of Iraq and Syria that you can see above. Although a coalition of Secularists, Shiites, and Kurds are fighting back against the extremists, the IS keeps gaining territory and resources. This week, the Islamic State captured Iraq’s largest dam in a key victory over Kurdish forces and a potential weapon of mass destruction.