No place like home: Western jihadists decry Islamic State’s lack of beauty salons, Starbucks, good food

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Westerners who left their homelands for a new life in the Islamic State caliphate seem to have taken at least one tradition with them: airing their gripes on social media.

Complaints about the life under ISIS tracked by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which analyzed social media sent from inside the so-called caliphate, focus on Western defectors' finding a severe lack of creature comforts. No Starbucks, rude help at beauty salons, lousy restaurants, slow Internet and bad cellphone service are among the common complaints that paint life under the terrorist organization as uncomfortable, even for Westerners who signed up to live among bloodthirsty killers.

“ISIS champions its state as the only place in which Muslims can fully adhere to their faith and enjoy sharia-compliant Islamic life,” reads an introduction to MEMRI's report, provided to “…However, sometimes ISIS members have been overly candid in their postings; when this happens, others often quickly step in and ask that the dissenting post be removed. Such grumblings provide glimpses into Western ISIS members' discontent with life in the Islamic State.”

"I know it may be shirk [idolatry] but sometimes I do miss Starbucks.The coffee here is beyond wretched."

— Tweet from western defector to the Islamic State

Many of the greatest complaints have come from Western female members of ISIS, who often form their own tightly knit cliques and try not to mingle with the native Syrian women. On a blog believed to have been maintained by Westerners in the terrorist group, a query about the state of beauty salons in the territory that spans parts of Syria and Iraq drew a 'why bother?' response.

“There are salons but, trust me, you're better off getting a sister here to do your hair/make-up etc., for two reasons,” read the response. “The style here isn't really that nice and their makeup most of the time goes toward the clowny look”

Many of them have gone on to social media sites like Twitter to complain about the local amenities. (MEMRI JTTF)

Many of them have gone on to social media sites like Twitter to complain about the local amenities. (MEMRI JTTF)

Back in July, a Western woman from within the caliphate tweeted a photo of local options for shampoo and wrote, “no good at all…”

On May 11, a Western woman took to Twitter to complain about the horror of caliphate coffee.

"I know it may be shirk [idolatry], but sometimes I do miss Starbucks,” she wrote. "The coffee here is beyond wretched."

This past summer, an Australian woman who calls herself "umm seeker OFistishad," or "mother, seeker of martyrdom," complained about the sweltering heat in Syria with a pithy tweet.

Others have posted complaints about the quality of basic items like shampoo. (MEMRI JTTF)

Others have posted complaints about the quality of basic items like shampoo. (MEMRI JTTF)

"The heat in sham [Syria] is shocking; I'm thinking to change my kunya [name] to Umm Sweat. Over this heat," she tweeted.

Another overwhelming complaint from Western defectors appears to be over the food selection.

On July 25, a Belgian ISIS fighter, Abu Maria Al-Belgiki, who was later killed tweeted: "When I came to the state... I ended up in Iraq... I made it very clear the first day, 'sorry I don't like Arab food'; they used to force me to eat something called 'bacha' or whatever... urgh so disgusting... it was cow/sheep bones and this and that..."

According to a March 2015 report to the UN Security Council, 22,000 foreign fighters from 100 nations have traveled to Syria and Iraq, mostly  from Western countries, to support ISIS.

Many defectors have complained about the local cuisine. (MEMRI JTTF)

Many defectors have complained about the local cuisine. (MEMRI JTTF)

Many of the complaints seem innocuous, but voicing unhappiness when it comes to the treatment of women is strictly forbidden in the Islamic State. On Aug. 10, a Swedish woman named Muhajira Umm Hamza took to Twitter and lashed out against the treatment of women in the city of Raqqah by male muhajirin, or foreign fighters, in a series of tweets.

"Seriously, I am getting so tired of many men muhajirin now. I feel harassed so often now. Women can't do this or that. What is the point?" read one of the missives. “It's not sharia that men scream or talk to us in the street. It's not. I feel more and more sad here now.

"There is so little respect for us,” read another tweet from the same woman.

Moments after her social media diatribe, all of the tweets were deleted. Her fate is unclear.

“First-hand examples of complaints from the social media accounts of ISIS and Jabhat-Al Nusra members illustrates the fractures in the Islamic State, and disproves ISIS’ narrative that the Islamic State is an idyllic place for Muslims to reside," MEMRI research fellow Anat Agron told

The report includes tweets from foreign fighters who joined other terrorist groups operating in the region, including the Al Qaeda-linked Jabbat al-Nusra, to show that defectors seem to particularly dislike life under ISIS.

“They indicate that other groups can be more open to locals and their customs than ISIS, and perhaps that the feeling is mutual -- the locals like them better than they do ISIS,” Agron said.

Proof of this can be seen online from western ISIS members. While the local Syrians take no issue with non-ISIS rebel fighters, they are not particularly fond of those who fight under the black standard flag of the Islamic State. They see members of ISIS, which they often refer to as Dawla, as wealthy and somewhat spoiled.

British ISIS fighter Omar Hussain wrote in a guide called “Culture Clash: Understanding the Syrian Race,” that local Syrian merchants often take advantage of ISIS fighters, believing they are rich.

"Here in Syria, Dawlah has a reputation of being wealthy," he wrote. "The average Syrian looks at a Dawlah brother as a walking bank and, unfortunately, shopkeepers are no exception. So many times when asking a shopkeeper for the price of an item, he would [be] contemplating for a while, then give you a higher price. This is something which every single Dawlah [ISIS] brother has experienced. Wherever Dawlah goes, shopkeepers benefit. No doubt there are those who are honest merchants, yet sadly they are few. The vast majority are money-lovers who think we are unaware of their petty actions."

Local Syrians have even taken to Twitter to complain ISIS' Western recruits.

"If I hear one more European muhajirah [migrant] trashing Arab sisters I'm going to lose it,” Twitter user @GreenBirdofDabiq tweeted on Sept. 10. “If you didn't like Arab culture, u shouldn't have come here. And don't trash our Syrian sisters who didn't grow up with the wealth u have. Yr not better than they r and u risk nullifying yr hijrah."