Photos are circulating online in China of what is suspected to be a Chinese citizen fighting for the Islamic State militant group. Though the photos initially surfaced Tuesday, there still has been no confirmation of the identity or nationality of the man.
The South China Morning Post reported a Facebook page purportedly run by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense uploaded two photos of what appears to be a captured Islamic State fighter, describing the captured militant as a “Chinese daash.” Daash is an acronym for the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” or ISIS. If the allegations are true, it would be the first confirmed Chinese national to be found fighting for the extremist militant group, joining a growing number of foreigners who have been recruited from the U.K., Australia and the United States.
Though the Chinese embassy in Iraq declined requests for comment by the Post, it wouldn’t be the first time Chinese citizens were suspected of joining Islamist militant groups. The New York Times reported last year about a YouTube video showing a man going by the name of Bo Wang, who said he had joined militants to fight in Syria.
China’s Muslim population, predominantly in the western regions of the country, is often marginalized by the officially atheist Chinese government. “Muslim rights are forcibly seized in China, India, [and] Palestine,” Islamic State self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said in a July speech, and urged Muslims in those regions to join the cause.
Yin Gang, a West Asian and African Studies scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it's possible hundreds of Chinese nationals are currently fighting for the Islamic State, citing previous examples of Chinese citizens joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.