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News :: International
Isis defector speaks of life inside brutal Islamic jihadist group
14 Jul 2014
A reporter has spoken to a defector about life inside the feared jihadist group.
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Isis is not an organisation it is easy to leave. We met a man who had - and he was terrified of the consequences. "The brutality of Isis terrifies everyone," he said. "My family, my cousins, my siblings are all still there. I fear for them. If they can't reach me, they will reach my family."

He was nervous, agreeing to record an interview only after several hours of discussion, over customary tiny glasses of scalding hot, sweet tea. He would talk to us only if we would not reveal his identity. He wrapped himself in a keffiyeh for our camera and we promised not to use his name.

He summed up the jihadists' tactics like this: "If you're against me, then you'll be killed. If you're with me, you work with me. You submit to my will and obey me, under my power in all matters."

'Heart impassioned'

There are few accounts of how Isis works. That is no surprise when Isis says it will detain as spies any foreign journalists who enter its territory. So we travelled to Turkey's border with Syria to meet the defector.

The border is a hinterland of safe houses and supply lines for the rebels in the Syrian uprising. Turkey has made clear that Isis is no longer welcome here, so it is possible to meet people who have sought refuge from the Islamic State.

The defector had initially joined an Islamist brigade of the Free Syrian Army to fight the Assad regime. He joined Isis when his whole tribe pledged allegiance to the group - and because he believed in creating an Islamic state.

His first orders, as an Isis fighter, were to attend a course on Sharia, or Islamic law. "Not the principles of Islam, the principles of the Islamic State. So they teach you the Islam they want," he said.

"It appeals to the heart and not to the mind, so that your heart becomes impassioned with their words. This is the first stage. The second stage is military exercises, military training."

He explained that Isis had learned the lessons from Iraq in the early days on the anti-American insurgency. Then, it alienated the Sunni population. In Syria, the defector said, Isis tried to do things differently as it entered each new town.

"In the beginning Isis used goodness with the population in order to attract the people and they provided them with what they needed in order to attract them quickly, because they suffered so much under Bashar and his regime," he said.

"Once Isis succeeded in attracting people they changed dramatically, from being good to being cruel and harsh. You're either with me or against me! There is nothing in between."

Sharia law

In all the towns and villages it controls, Isis has implemented its very conservative version of Sharia. Rules on appearance are strictly enforced: a beard for men, the full veil for women, this is required for the whole population.

"Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed," the defector said.

Our producer met one woman who had fled with her husband and children to Turkey from Raqqa in Syria. She said an Isis fighter policing the streets had threatened her after she had accidentally shown one centimetre of her trousers.

"I was wearing it [the niqab] but I just forgot to lift it up, that's while I was getting out of the car. I don't know how he saw me, I really don't know. And he was Egyptian, unfortunately. He is not a Syrian worrying about a woman from his nation."

The defector said it was a deliberate Isis strategy to use outsiders to police the towns it took over.

"The Islamic State have brought in people from other countries, different nationalities who are quite young in age so that they can brainwash or indoctrinate them with their Isis ideology," he said.

"And so they control the areas, not through the local people but with their own forces and their own men whom they prepare for this task."

The jihadists of Isis wish to go back to what they see as a more pure form of Islam from the time of the Prophet and his companions. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran.

The lslamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has now proclaimed himself "Caliph", a descendant of Muhammad and of his tribe. He has demanded that all Muslims, everywhere, swear loyalty to him -a ruling condemned by other religious scholars around the region.

But Baghdadi is also spoken of as a cunning tactician. Some reports from Mosul, for instance, speak of confidence-building measures. Security barriers have been torn down to open roads, electricity lines restored, municipal salaries paid… if this does not work, Isis can rely on the whip and the sword, as it has done many times in the past.

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Islamic Jihadists execute four Syrian ‘spies’ in Iraq
15 Jul 2014
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Monday, 14 July 2014

Jihadist militants publicly executed four Syrian men in a western Iraqi town for allegedly spying for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, witnesses and a doctor said on Monday. Militants flying the flag of the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group brought the men to a main street in al-Qaim, near Iraq’s border with Syria, in a convoy of trucks on Sunday, witnesses said. One militant then announced that they were spies for Assad’s regime, which the IS is fighting in Syria, and the men, their hands bound, were shot dead one by one.

Their bodies were taken away by ambulance, and Dr Mustafa Shawqi from the Al-Qaim hospital confirmed the deaths. IS jihadists have repeatedly carried out executions in both Iraq and Syria, and have documented their deeds online with grisly photos of their victims, including some who have been beheaded.

Militants seized control of Al-Qaim last month during a major jihadist-led offensive that has overrun swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad. According to the UN refugee agency, there are more than 4,500 Syrian refugees in Iraq’s Anbar province, many of them at a camp near Al-Qaim.
Islamic Dictators and Women - The Endless Nightmare of Islam
15 Jul 2014
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Agony of Pakistani women enslaved by Dubai sex trade

Zunera once dreamed of becoming a computer engineer. Instead, aged 16, she was tricked into prostitution in the UAE, beginning a four-year nightmare of cruelty, violence and rape.

Pakistan has long been an important source of cheap labour for the Gulf state, particularly its booming construction sector. But campaigners and officials say hundreds of young Pakistani women are also trafficked every year to supply the thriving sex trade in the brothels and nightclubs of Dubai. Zunera and her sister Shaista were two of them.

More than a year after she escaped, Zunera's pain is still etched into her stumbling, hesitant voice -- and also into her body, which bears the marks of countless beatings. Vivid, angry scars run the length of her legs from ankle to hip, reminders of a botched operation after she was shot three times by the gang who trafficked her.

Zunera and Shaista managed to escape their tormentors in 2013 but still live in hiding in a two-room house in a slum, fearing revenge attacks. AFP is withholding their full names and precise whereabouts for their safety. Their ordeal began in her hometown in Punjab province, when the family got into money trouble and a neighbour named Ayesha offered the sisters domestic work.

After a while Ayesha suggested she take the sisters to Dubai to work in her beauty parlour, getting fake papers to help the underage Zunera leave Pakistan. Shaista is so traumatised by her experiences she can barely recount her harrowing ordeal. Fighting back tears, Zunera revealed the horror that awaited them at Dubai.

"Ayesha took us to the lavatories at the airport and told us that we will be serving her clients for sex," Zunera told AFP. "We started crying and then she told us that we travelled on fake documents and if we said anything we would be handed over to police right there." Faced with no alternative, the sisters went with Ayesha, thinking they could just avoid having sex with clients.

"The first time, she herself was present in the room and made us do what the clients wanted. We were raped in front of her and with her assistance," Zunera said.

- Escape, but little freedom -

"She used to beat one of us and ask the other sister to talk on phone to our parents, threatening to kill us if we revealed anything about the brothel," Zunera recalled.

From time to time Ayesha brought the women back to Pakistan to renew their visas, frightening them into silence by telling them she would kill their whole families if they revealed the life they had been tricked into. But eventually in March 2013 the sisters plucked up the courage to share their ordeal to their elder sister Qamar, who eventually obtained their freedom -- but at a cost.

"The brother of Ayesha and the younger brother of her husband came to our house. They fired three shots which hit me," Zunera said.

After that, Ayesha told the clients to keep their cell phones connected to her number during the intercourse so she could hear what was happening -- and if they were refusing to cooperate. "She used to torture us whenever we refused to perform certain sexual acts, and she told us that she knew whatever had happened inside the bedroom," Zunera said.

The women were not allowed to go out or even speak to one another freely. They could speak to their family in Pakistan by phone occasionally, but under duress. "In hospital, she sent policemen who harassed me and asked me to start walking despite the fact that my leg had undergone surgery."

The family fled from the hospital and went into hiding because their neighbours also started abusing them for being "prostitutes". Zunera's family approached a court to try to crack trafficking ring run by Ayesha and her husband Ashfaq. The court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to act but the case has since made little progress.

Lawyer Zulfiqar Ali Bhutta, who is fighting Zunera's case, says the trafficking gangs often have influential connections to politicians and the police. "Several gangs smuggle dozens of young girls from Pakistan to Dubai for prostitution every week. Nobody takes action against them," Bhutta said.

"The main accused in this case, Ashfaq, fled from the court in front of FIA officials. They did not arrest him despite the court cancelling his bail," he said. A recent US State Department report on people smuggling said the UAE government was making significant efforts to tackle sex trafficking, pointing to prosecutions and protection offered to victims.

In 2013, the US report said, the UAE government identified 40 victims and referred them to state-funded shelters. But if the UAE authorities are keen to confront the problem, in Pakistan indifference reigns.

"It is true that hundreds of girls are being taken to Dubai for work in beauty parlours, in music and dance troupes, but there is no proof that any of them has been smuggled for prostitution," Syed Shahid Hassan, deputy director FIA Faisalabad, told AFP.

For Zunera and Shaista, their ordeal has abated but not ended. Ayesha has surrendered to a court but been freed on bail. The sisters now live in constant fear that a gunman will come back for them.