Monday, July 6, 2015

Relentless Terror: The Everyday Horrors of the Islamic State... and ... The Allure of the Islamic State: Money and Status Attract Fighters

    Monday, July 06, 2015   No comments

 Relentless Terror: The Everyday Horrors of the Islamic State
In late June, images made their way around the world of four men as they were locked in a car and killed with a rocket-propelled grenade. They showed seven men, chained together with explosive necklaces, as they were blown up. And they provided evidence that five men had been locked in a metal cage and lowered into the water to drown. As we learned last week, 16 men in total were murdered in these brutal ways. We know this because the executioners with the group calling itself "Islamic State" wanted to film their victims as they were dying.

The films, carefully staged and distributed using all modern channels, seem to be coming directly from hell. The men who see themselves as the new caliphs are performing an unparalleled dance of death, complete with the kinds of horrors once depicted by painter Hieronymus Bosch -- only these killers and executioners are anything but fiction. In Syria and along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq today, where human civilization once began, it is not some nightmarish fictional characters at work, but real players in contemporary history with a megalomaniacal agenda. And instead of covering up their murders, they are doing the opposite -- inviting the rest of the world to look on, proud of a brutality that knows no bounds and is both part of their military strategy and an instrument of oppression.

The Islamic State is both fact and fiction at the same time. It has clearly created a propaganda bubble, but it also represents a new social order in places where it has come into power. The "caliphate" was proclaimed about a year ago, and the older group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has become IS, often referred to as Da'ish in the Arab world. But all of these names refer to the same thing: a militant movement with its origins partly in the Iraqi prison camps run by the Americans, which grew into al-Qaida in Iraq and now, as IS, is claiming territory for a new state, territory captured by former top figures in the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein.



 The Allure of the Islamic State: Money and Status Attract Fighters

The prisoner enters the room with his eyes blind-folded, with stiff and uncertain steps. He's shaking and doesn't seem to know where he is, why he is here or what is happening to him. The guard leading him directs the man to one of eight stools. A second uniformed man stands in the room. He's the head of security at this high-security prison in Erbil, with simultaneous responsibility for the anti-terror unit. He doesn't want to reveal his name for security reasons.

"In this prison, we observe the rules of the United Nations Human Rights Conventions," he says, unsolicited. "There's no torture. We treat our prisoners well."

The prisoner on the other side of the table is said to be an emir, an officer in the army of the "Islamic State" captured during fighting near the city of Tal Afar. His name: Mohammed Ibrahim, born in 1985, a professional mason, a football fan and, since July of last year, a soldier serving the Islamic State. He disputes being an emir. He claims to have been a simple soldier, one who had been on watch duty and hid himself in a trench during the Allied air strikes. He had been captured there by Peshmerga fighters.

Ibrahim has a wife and three kids. He says he took up the call to arms because two of his brothers were killed in 2004 and 2006, after going to war to fight for al-Qaida. He had been feeling the pain of that loss for years. Although the deaths of his brothers may have been a motive for Ibrahim, a second, also plausible one, was opportunism. Why else would it have taken him years after the deaths of his brothers to team up with the Islamic State's forces? Why had he only just now entered into battle?

One possible answer is that, following IS' capture of Mosul one month before, when the Iraqi army led with the arrival of a few thousand fighters in pickup trucks, he wanted to endear himself to the future leaders in Iraq.



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