The Islamic State’s interpretation of Sharia law has left residents of Deir e-Zor in a bind. Going to court means cruel and swift punishment at the hands of foreign judges appointed by the Islamic State. Not going to court when a legal dispute arises is also grounds for punishment, such as spending a couple of days digging ditches on an active frontline in the so-called caliphate.
How does the Islamic State know a grievance is not being addressed in its courts? It has its own agents, Syrians from Deir e-Zor, operating as undercover informants. “This practice allows IS to know everything within minutes,” says Mujahed a-Shami, the director of Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently.
“The Islamic State thus uses the same spying style as the regime,” a-Shami tells Noura al-Hourani.
Q: Talk about how people are afraid of any sort of dispute with the Islamic State.
People have become desperate. Fear has spread among them. They are forced to bring their complaints to the Hisbeh Court (Dar al-Hisbeh) because they’re afraid of punishment if IS discovers a problem it wasn’t made aware of. At the same time, they hope to hide their problems from the Islamic State, because anyone summoned to court usually leaves with a guilty verdict. Justice has totally disappeared.
Q: If the Islamic State discovers that people have hidden legal problems from them, what’s the punishment?
Residents are afraid to hide their problems. I’d go so far as to say they can’t. The Islamic State plants security officers wearing normal civilian clothing, and working undercover, between residents. These officers are local IS recruits only, from the city itself. This practice allows IS to know everything within minutes.
The Islamic State thus uses the same spying style as the regime. There are different punishments for people should IS learn of a problem it hadn’t been informed of. The most common punishment includes compelling locals to dig trenches in locations where dangerous battles are going on, such as the Deir e-Zor airport. Recently, IS raised the digging punishment from three to five days.
Q: You said that justice has disappeared in the shade of the Islamic State. IS claims that it adopts Islamic Sharia law in issuing its rulings. How does IS actually implement its laws?
What Sharia? What justice? People have even stopped praying. The country is lost. IS rules with barbarity, we have no familiarity with the rulings that they hand out, we’ve never heard of them, they aren’t connected to religion in the slightest.
Those who issue rulings are the jurists, mostly they are of Gulf nationalities and Tunisians. Those who carry out the rulings are security officials; they always wear masks to hide their identities.
Things are different here than other areas of Islamic State control. If people knew the identities of those who were carrying out the executions, they would be killed without a doubt. Assassination operations in Deir e-Zor have not stopped since IS took control a year and a half ago.
Q: When IS carries out executions, usually we don’t see any reaction from the person about to be killed. Why is that, in your opinion?
I think that the person about to be killed wants an escape from all of the torture he suffered during his interrogation and captivity.