Saudi Arabia grapples with danger of youth swayed by ISIL

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh


Khaled and Saleh al-Oraini stabbed their mother to death at their home in Riyadh after adopting the ideology promoted by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of Saudi Interior Ministry]

A number of recent incidents in Saudi Arabia have caused concern that the ideology promoted by the "Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) is seeping into Saudi society and corrupting the minds of innocent youth.

One recent crime in particular has sparked outrage across Saudi Arabia. On June 24th, in the al-Hamra district in Riyadh, twin brothers stabbed their own mother to death, and hospitalized their father and other brother, allegedly because the mother objected to her sons joining ISIL in Syria.

"The security authorities determined that the two offenders lured their mother to the supply room and treacherously stabbed her several times, killing her," said Saudi minister of interior Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki. "They then went to their father, took him by surprise and stabbed him several times, then chased their brother Suleiman and stabbed him several as well, using a cleaver and sharp knives they brought from outside the house and were found at the scene of the crime."

The twins, Khaled and Saleh al-Oraini, 20, fled the house and stole a car from an expatriate, and were later arrested by security authorities in the town of al-Dalam in al-Kharj province.

The Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the twin brothers had adopted ISIL's takfiri ideology.

Similar incidents have taken place in the recent past.

In February, Sgt. Badr Hamdi Sarikh al-Rashidi of the special forces in al-Qassim region was killed by six of his relatives, who later flaunted their crime in an online video in which they pledge allegiance to ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Last September, two brothers who had been involved in several shootings in the kingdom also killed their cousin, a member of the Saudi military.

'Alarm bell'

Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, former head of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Committee in the city of Mecca, described the crime to Al-Mashareq as a "heinous act that is unimaginable and cannot be conceived by anyone, no matter what level of perversion, extremism or criminality he has reached".

"This crime should serve as a real alarm bell warning to the criminal terrorist acts planned against society," he said. "Resistance against such plots will not succeed unless there is real participation by all the members of society" against extremist thought.

He said part of the responsibility falls on parents to draw their children closer, address any psychological problems they may have, share in their thoughts and constantly engage in conversation with them in order to prevent them from indulging in extremist thoughts.

The main objective of these crimes is to sow "unrest in Saudi society, especially seeing as ISIL’s fatwas advocate killing family members, relatives and security personnel and also encourage bombing mosques", al-Ghamdi said.

ISIL targeting youth

"ISIL and other terrorist groups know full well the difficulty of carrying out terrorist operations in the kingdom against security centers, public figures, or government or commercial institutions," said former Saudi army officer and military attaché Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Shehri. "So, its cells actively seek on social networking sites to encourage those they are able to sway to carry out these heinous crimes against Saudi society."

The crime involving the twins is "proof of their blind obedience to the group and total and complete commitment to follow the orders and fatwas issued by the group," al-Shehri said.

Al-Shehri stressed that the only way to stop these criminal acts is by reporting any extremist-leaning member of the community, so action can be taken before any crime occurs.

The apparent social isolation of the twin brothers is indicative of the atmosphere that paved the way for their fall into the recruitment trap and their adoption of extremist ideology, said Fadel al-Hindi, a supervisor at the King Abdulaziz University Centre for Social and Humanities Research.

Journalistic investigations, as well as testimonies from people who knew the twins, reveal that they did not mingle much with their neighbors, rarely appeared in public and had no social relations with youth in their age group, he said.

"This crime will not promote the group and will not help it gain popularity in Saudi society. On the contrary, the angry reactions to what happened and [the comments posted] on social networking sites reflect the total rejection of what took place, especially by the youth, who debated the incident for days and fully condemned it," al-Hindi said.

One of the key strategies to avoid others falling into ISIL's trap, he said, is to disseminate the "true ideas of religion via all available means, such as mosques, schools, universities, social networking sites and TV channels, especially among the youth, who are the main segment targeted by ISIL and other extremist groups."

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Islamic State, we're coming!


ISIL and the terrorist threat is a real problem facing the Arab and Islamic world, especially young people. The main focus of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)" is young people with its wrong ideology. Therefore, we need to raise awareness among young people at universities and schools. We have to fill young people’s time with work because lack of work makes them embrace ISIL terrorist and dangerous ideology.