4 min read  | Deir e-Zor, Interviews, Politics

Islamic State fighters assassinated in Deir e-Zor amidst public’s ‘fierce anger’


January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015

A string of recent assassinations against Islamic State fighters by unknown gunmen in Deir e-Zor province has the jihadist organization cracking down to find the perpetrators.

“The perpetrators probably knew people who had died at the hand of IS, or had tasted humiliation from them,” Hisham Mayadeeni, the alias of a media activist in Mayadeen, tells Syria Direct’s Moutasem al-Jamal.

“It is impossible to know who is behind this because most of these operations were completely confidential,” the activist says.

IS has held a firm grip over the eastern, oil-rich province of Deir e-Zor since it seized control in July 2014, but the anonymous assassination campaign seems to be rattling the terror group.

IS responded to the assassinations by conducting a mass campaign of arrests last week against former FSA and Jabhat a-Nusra fighters in the IS-controlled city of Mayadeen–the site where many of the killings have taken place.

IS likely brought the killings on themselves, the activist says, because they alienate the public with harsh punishments for women not clothed “properly” and anyone caught smoking.

“They sometimes take women to the al-Hisbeh center in order to punish them for not wearing [Islamic] clothing, causing fierce anger on the streets.”

Q: Who is responsible for these assassinations in your opinion?

The last incident happened in Mayadeen during night prayers when the streets were empty of bystanders. Members of the al-Hisbeh were driving their car as usual before night prayers, circling around the city, urging people to go to prayer, closing the stores and preventing people from walking in the streets.

Young men, who were previously revolutionaries, might be behind the killings because of their families’ displacement from their homes, or because of the repressive practices towards people and IS’s role in making women wear [proper] clothing. They sometimes take women to the al-Hisbeh center in order to punish them for not wearing [Islamic] clothing, causing fierce anger on the streets.

It is impossible to know who is behind this because most of these operations were completely confidential and it is not expected that the perpetrators will disclose their identity. The perpetrators probably knew people who had died at the hand of IS, or had tasted humiliation from them. It is possible that the perpetrators are followers of Jabhat a-Nusra and anti-IS cells as well, but probably not, because the city is entirely under IS control.

Deire-Zorinterview IS fighter battles for Deir e-Zor airport on Monday. Photo courtesy of @arabic_infos.

Q: What are the real reasons behind the targeting of the al-Hisbeh?

It may be because of their practices in the city and towards its people. For example, they banned smoking and they take citizens who smoke and punish them. Smokers are taken to the front lines and killed with the enemy, forced to dig trenches, made to pick up garbage from the city streets, being flogged in front of people, or sent to prison.

It may also be because of their bad practices at the expense of women, such as when they take them to the al-Hisbah centers without men. Or it may be because of the practice of seizing civilians’ homes on charges of apostasy or treason. Also cutting off the heads of people because of dealing with apostates or “spreading news”, which is what they call spying.

Q:  There is talk about disagreements inside IS between the Arab members and foreigners. Is this true?

We have not seen any disagreement. If there was disagreement between them, they wouldn’t show it because they are completely secret and do not differentiate between Arabs and foreigners.

Q: How would you describe the response of the people to the assassinations? Are they satisfied or unsatisfied? Why?

Some are opposed to the assassinations and fear the oppression of IS, believing that IS might collectively punish the people. They do not want problems or fighting in the city, fearing for themselves and their lives.

The second group are those who support the [assassination] operations because they do not accept the majority of IS’s practices, such as the prevention of smoking and its trade, the closing of all shops, establishments and workshops during prayer, or compulsory zakat [Islamic donation], as some people don’t want to pay zakat.

Q: How has IS responded to the assassinations?

They have set up strict checkpoints on all the main streets and now check on pedestrians thoroughly–even if he’s only walking, he’s inspected very carefully. They’ve also imposed a curfew and raided certain houses.

Q: Will the assassination improve the Islamic State’s treatment of civilians, and, if so, how?

Never. Since the assassinations, the Islamic State has treated citizens in a crazy way, inspecting them and their cars as if they were perpetrators, or raiding their homes even though they aren’t connected to any matter. IS members are prepared to die but they do not want to be assassinated, and if things go really poorly, they are willing to displace the residents of city of Al-Bokamel [where assassinations have also taken place], without exception, as punishment.

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