People are seeking to use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Monero to escape jihad-controlled regions of the Middle East.
Bitcoin Is Playing a Big Role for Those Looking to Escape the Middle East
One such example is a girl simply known as “Sara.” This woman is a European affiliated with Isis. She is presently living in a camp in northeast Syria and is desperate to escape. Through an encrypted application, she put out the following message to anyone who would be able to access it:
I just need $15,000 dollars to escape to Turkey, Idlib or wherever. I already have $2,000. It’s a big amount, I know, but if you can spare anything…
As time has gone by, efforts by people like Sara to escape regions like Syria have taken on less conventional means, and individuals are beginning to accept more cryptocurrencies like bitcoin so that they can pay smugglers to get them out of jihad-controlled countries and bribe border officers so that they can sneak into neighboring regions.
Sara’s story is a sad one, indeed, though it is not necessarily unique, as many more people within these areas seek to engage in fundraising efforts on Facebook, Telegram, and other online platforms to get the money they need to escape whatever war-torn region they are currently facing.
As it stands, average costs for a woman and her child to escape these camps range from anywhere between $12,500 to as much as $25,000. Fundraisers online claim these individuals will be very well protected as they are smuggled out of these regions. One Isis-linked fundraiser explained in a recent statement:
You don’t send the money straight to Syria. With bitcoin and Western Union, you can send it to our trusted sisters in other countries, then it comes to Turkey before going to Syria to the person our [office] sends us.
Many of the present fundraising efforts are largely led by women who have escaped these conditions themselves. They are now looking to get others out and return the favors that were given to them. However, there are still hazards to overcome, many of which are technical. For example, many donors who claim to be sending assets like Monero and bitcoin to these causes through their PayPal accounts say they have been shut down since taking part.
Some experts are saying that there are ways around such issues. One method involves sending cryptocurrency coupons to certain recipients which they can then trade in for cash. That money can then be put towards their causes.
Paving the Way Themselves
Vera Mironova – an expert on camps in Syria and a visiting fellow at Harvard – explained in an interview:
They don’t need boys sitting in Europe or Syria doing it for them. They realized they can do it directly. Now they are trying to fund the escape attempts themselves without a complex male middleman campaign.