Life for many people living in war-torn areas of the middle east, such as Syria and Iraq, isn’t easy right now. The Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, is enjoying much military success in the countries it has invaded. Its barbaric acts of beheadings, rape, and murder have become legendary.
But what is life actually like for the average citizen who finds himself under the iron-fist rule of the new boys in town, ISIS?
As the dust settles a little, and despite the fact that it’s too dangerous for reporters to let the world know what actually goes on when ISIS are around, reports have emerged showing a bleak glimpse into the lives of innocent people in Iraq and Syria.
This week, for example, the United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, presented details of a massacre that took place at the city’s Badoush prison in June. On that occasion, ISIS militants reportedly seized more than 1,000 inmates. The group spared the lives of their fellow Sunni Muslims, but gunned down some 670 people.
NPR contacted a number of residents from Mosul, a town in Iraq which has suffered the worst of the takeover. One person who they spoke to by phone, a 46-year-old shop owner named Mohammed Ali, says he knows that ISIS committed that massacre:
“I have a friend who works in the Badoush jail. He told me, ‘I saw many bodies in the valley near the prison. It was full of bodies. I asked him who it was. He said, ‘ISIS killed so many people.’ Some of our relatives, they’re Sunnis, they were in Badoush jail, they are aligned with al-Qaida. Most of them were set free when ISIS took over, and now they’re working with the ISIS people.”
Another Mosul resident, 29-year-old Sermat, a civil servant, told reporters that the makeup of ISIS has changed radically in the last few months:
“In the beginning, when [the Islamic State] came there were many foreigners, from Syria and elsewhere. Then local people from the city, either sympathizers or just those who needed money, joined in, and now it seems most of the fighters are local.”
Another resident, Seif, a 34-year-old civil engineer said that he even met an American among the ISIS militants who took over his neighborhood of Temmuz:
“He said he was from America and he was trying to call his family. He said he was Muslim, but his parents were not. He had lost part of one leg below the knee, and he had a gun over his shoulder.”
This may not quite be the full picture of what life is like under ISIS but NRP‘s brave reporting at least sheds some light on a catastrophe that has befallen the people of Iraq and Syria under ISIS.