KYIV - After the fall of a self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria dozens of thousands of foreign fighters fighting in the ranks of Islamic State or ISIS disappeared. They used smugglers, contacts and networks to leave the country. Many of them were looking for safe havens where they can take a break, wait for new opportunities and orders or come back to normal life. 

According to an investigation by Zaborona Media, probably a few hundred former fighters of the caliphate chose Ukraine for their place to stay. Ukraine, which is a democracy in transition with weak public institutions, corruption, leaking borders and ongoing conflict, yields a lot of opportunities for people who would like to stay undercover.

While working on the initial investigation idea about smuggling routes of former ISIS fighters into European countries, Zaborona's team learned about other grave issues connected to the legacy of the Islamic State. In particular, a  refugee camp in Syria in dire needs, and fabricated cases in extremism against people of Caucasus origin, commonly used by security services in Ukraine and Poland.

A cross-border team of journalists opens this series of publications with a story about a Polish Woman who Lives in a Syrian Refugee Camp. Magda left for the self-proclaimed caliphate six years ago. To this day she remains in Syria,  but is now in a camp filled with the families of members of the Islamic State. She wants to return home to Poland. These Syrian camps have been inhabited for years by women who cannot return home. 


How Similar Methods of Fabricating Religious Terrorism Work in Ukraine and Poland 

Accusing Muslim foreigners of religious fanaticism is a state tactic used for internal purposes, like creating the feeling terrorism is under control. Authoritarian regimes use it to send unwanted citizens back to the country of their origin. This tactic is facilitated by the lack of knowledge and interest of special services in countries such as Poland and Ukraine.

In their second story Polish reporter Pawel Pieniazek and Ukrainian journalist Alyona Savchuk investigated how states unjustifiably accuse foreign Muslims of terrorism and tell parallel stories of the arrest of a Tajik man in Poland and a Russian woman in Ukraine. 


Jihadists on Ukrainian vacation. Why Ukraine has become a haven for Islamic State militants

Ukraine is attracting Islamic State militants seeking asylum after losing territories in Syria and Iraq. The country is a good place to hide and wait until you have the opportunity to return safely to your home in the European Union or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. In their third story Polish journalist Pawel Pieniazek, who covered the war with the Islamic State in Syria and investigated the impact of terrorists in Afghanistan, and Ukrainian reporter Alyona Savchuk investigated how and why Ukraine has become a haven for some Islamic State militants.

Photo image: AVE

Team members

Kateryna Sergatskova

Kateryna Sergatskova is co-founder and CEO of Zaborona Media in Ukraine. 

Paweł Pieniążek

Paweł Pieniążek is a Polish journalist, has reported on refugee crisis, wars in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria.

Alona Savchuk

Alona Savchuk is a Ukrainian journalist. 

A grant of €11,000 was allocated on 16/06/2020





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