Survivors recount how ISIS used torture, guns and bureaucracy to hold sway over thousands

The Wall Street Journal reports: After more than two years of enduring Islamic State’s harsh rule, desperation trumped fear for Assad Ali Hassan and other residents of Faziliya, Iraq.

A few dozen militants controlled the village near the ISIS stronghold of Mosul with torture, fear and bureaucracy, recounted some who survived the occupation. The small band were the only ones with weapons, enabling them to exert outsize power over the 7,000 villagers, said Muhammad Ayub, an English-speaking graduate of Mosul University.

“Sometimes one of them would just show up in a village around here wearing a suicide belt and blow himself up,” said Mr. Hassan, 45 years old. There might be no apparent justification for it besides ensuring people remained terrified, he said.

Survivors from villages surrounding Mosul recounted how the militants kept them impoverished and scared, crushing them with a bureaucracy that included levying frequent fines, encouraging children to inform on parents, and ensuring people depended on the caliphate for essential supplies.

Reports from Mosul, still under Islamic State control, suggest the militants there have stepped up their brutality, executing dozens suspected of aiding Iraqi security forces and herding thousands of families into positions as human shields. Iraqi forces began a new phase of their offensive on Monday, aiming to enter the city itself for the first time.

Though Faziliya and other villages in the area were primarily Sunni, locals who decided to stay and live under the new regime lost faith in their Sunni occupiers after the militants showed a brutal face and piled on the regulations.

“They would get small children like this to flog grown men in public,” Mr. Hassan said, gesturing to his young son. “They would slide a pen into your beard and if it didn’t stay, if it fell out because the beard wasn’t long enough, you would get lashings.”

Such punishments often would be meted out in a public square, the violator forced to stand on a single floor tile. If the offender wavered and stepped off, the lash count would start over, villagers said.

Women were subjected to a different, painful punishment: They were bitten. A woman, for example, was deemed to be indecent. A female ISIS militant would preside over a quick trial, then administer the punishment. Was a hand too exposed? After a summary judgment, the militant would bite it.

Risking penalty of death for using a cellphone, Mr. Hassan began making secret calls to his brother Rifad, 40, who had escaped the village after it fell to the militants in 2014. Assad reported Islamic State positions to Rifad, who then passed the information to Kurdish intelligence. [Continue reading…]

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