Try to picture this. You’re sitting blindfolded in a dilapidated room, arms and legs fastened by rope, you’re spiralling deep into darkness. Every other day a few men come in and beat you, torture you, starve you. You have no idea if and when you will be released. The only moments of solace you find are the five-times-a-day you are forced to pray to a God that you do not believe in. This is a small excerpt of what an ISIS, also known as IS, prisoner goes through.

Can you picture it? Luckily for most of us, that is all we have to do.

Bunyamin Aygun, Louay Abdul-Jood, James Foley, Jurgen Todenhofer and Steven Sotloff are a few of the unfortunate men who either lived through this or died because of it. They were all prisoners of the Islamist extremist group ISIS. Bunyamin Aygun, Louay Abdul-Jood and Jurgen Todenhofer survived this ordeal and each of them have a separate story to tell.

Aygun also claims being Turkish was a great advantage, he was taught how to pray by a fellow Muslim hostage, and was treated with more respect when he taught other hostages how to pray.

However, the same cannot be said of James Foley or Steven Sotloff who belonged to “the great Satan” – USA. Foley was abducted a year before Aygun and was beheaded in August 2014, becoming the first American citizen to be killed at the hands of ISIS.

After the beheading of Foley, ISIS seemed to get a thirst for it, numerous victims followed, mostly those belonging to Western nations. Thus resulting in the involvement of the United States in the fight against ISIS.

At the time of Foley and Sotloff’s death ISIS was at the peak of their power, today the tables seem to be turning. The involvement of the United States has revealed cracks in the group, their funds are dwindling, they’ve run out of hostages to behead, and their territories are shrinking – Iraqi forces have re-captured the city of Tikrit that was earlier held by ISIS. This is not to say that ISIS no longer poses a grave threat to the Middle East. They are still in control of large portions of both Iraq and Syria and are planning the largest religious cleansing campaign the world has ever seen.

Aygun and those like him who survived the ordeal of ISIS gives us a glimpse of what this group is capable of. One thing each of them have to say to the world, is not to underestimate the power of ISIS. They are brutal, fierce and extremely enthusiastic about their cause. Jurgen Todenhofer told CNN:

These are not stupid people. One of the people we met had just finished his law degree. He had great job offers, but he turned them down to go and fight… We met fighters from Europe and the United States. One of them was from New Jersey. Can you imagine a man from New Jersey traveling to fight for the Islamic State?”