The Sunni jihadist group ISIS continues to conquer territory in Iraq, while its leaders have declared an Islamic caliphate — in a bold bid for power across the Muslim world. But back in Syria, where ISIS has been a growing presence for more than a year, a citizen-reporter for an independent Syrian news site recounts day-to-day life under the group, looking at everything from local prison conditions to women’s dress to World Cup attendance.
Tahrir Syria’s reporter Abu Ibrahim describes how the jihadist group is maintaining dire conditions in its prison, which is located in the basement of the city’s municipal building and features a torture chamber, complete with an electric chair and various tools of the trade.
Out in the sun, day-to-day life for most civilians in Riqqa appears stable, though uncertain. To begin, ISIS members come from all corners of the world and adopt sometimes divergent attitudes: In Abu Ibrahim’s telling, a Saudi ISIS member reportedly saved one local from getting arrested, while Tunisian militants remain the most extremist and aggressive. Along with Saudis, Egyptians are reputed to be the most lax of all ISIS militants.
Like the sometimes contradictory attitudes of the militants, new laws introduced by ISIS in Riqqa have also been a source of confusion and tension for locals. Militants also reportedly seem to follow different rules than the rest of the population, often living better than most other Riqqa residents. One notable example came at the beginning of the World Cup, which, as would be expected, interested both sides. Locals told Abu Ibrahim that only militants were allowed to watch the games, while civilians were prohibited because it would "distract from the remembrance of God." Whole families in Riqqa were allegedly prevented from watching, while cafés were raided and “viewing equipment” confiscated.