Spending months with Daesh members imprisoned in Austria, Ramazan Demir recently released a book on his experience as a prison chaplain speaking to the convicted militants.
More than 300 Daesh recruits serving prison sentences in Austria now deeply regret their decision, Demir, an Austrian of Turkish origin, says.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Demir said: "They saw what Daesh is doing in Syria and Iraq, and they decided to return to their country, feeling deep sorrow of what they have done."
Demir had a chance to speak to more than 100 such teenagers in the capacity of a religious official responsible for prisons. He compiled his experience in his second book "Unter Extremisten" which can be roughly translated as "Among Extremists."
He said the inmates serving sentences "are ashamed of what they had done." Without naming one of the convicts to protect his privacy, Demir said: "He is so ashamed of what he has done. He cannot look in his parents' eyes anymore.
"He told us many times that he did not want to live with the stigma and wanted to commit suicide."
Demir said he had been providing religious services to 2,000 Muslim convicts in Austria for the seven past years.
He has counseled radicalized teenagers, including those who had or have Daesh sympathies or had been active members of the group.
"I wanted to show people [through the book] that Daesh is not related to Islam, and reveal its true face to people who sympathize with it."
Currently, 67 convicts are serving prison sentences in Austria for links to Daesh, he said.
"Of them, 20 were arrested at the border when they were trying to join Daesh. In the last five years, more than 100 convicts have served time in jail and have been released."
Those who have been rehabilitated now visit prisons, in an effort to de-radicalize inmates.
When asked what motivates them to join terrorist or radical groups, he said: "Those who were not shown affection by their fathers usually try to cover up that empty spot by joining dangerous groups."
Islam has been an official religion in Austria since 1912. The country is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, about 6 percent of the total population, making up the country's largest non-Christian religious minority.
Many European countries, including Austria, are dealing with a situation where teenagers who get radicalized online through propaganda websites flee their homes to join Daesh.
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