December 3, 2014
The Islamic State (IS) allowed Shaitat tribal members from the village of Gharanij to return to their homes last week after the massacre of up to 700 of their tribesmen by IS fighters in Deir e-Zor followed by three months of exile.
IS has placed harsh restrictions on Shaitat members who opted to come home.
Gatherings are prohibited, residents must turn over their weapons anddenounce fellow tribesmen who fought IS as “apostates,” according to a recent announcement from the Islamic State entitled the “Rules for the Repentant,” which circulated widely on social media in mid-November. The statement’s authenticity was corroborated by a Shaitat tribesman who spoke to Syria Direct.
The same tribesman, who refused to give his real name out of fear for his life (he will be called Bassam for the purposes of this piece), talks here to Syria Direct's Osama Abu Zeid about the circumstances surrounding the return of the Shaitat to Gharanij.
Tribesmen were ordered to procure and then hand over 600 Kalashnikovs to IS members as a form of tribute (jizya) in order to go home, says Bassam.
As for those who don't turn in their weapons, they “will be killed and crucified in public.”
“The Islamic State asked, in a meeting with the tribal leaders of Gharanij from the Shaitat tribe on November 21, for the people of the town to hand over 600 Kalashnikovs, and with each gun four boxes filled with ammunition and an ammunition belt, so that they would be allowed to return.
Shaitat return to Gharanij in late November. Courtesy of Euphrates News Agency.
An Islamic State official said that the number of Kalashnikovs [referenced above] has no relation to the other weapons collected [from the Shaitat] previously, rather it is considered a tribute (jizya) to be paid by the people of the village to prepare IS mujahideen [for battle].
The official also said that by handing over the weapons, the tribe could return the next day. He informed the tribal leaders that they were allowed to buy the weapons and hand them over, despite the fact that most of the people are suffering tough financial circumstances after nearly four months of forced displacement.
If the people kept any additional weapons, they would be given a grace period of three days to hand them over. After that time, anyone who was proven to own a weapon, whether a pistol or anything else, would be killed and crucified in public.
Meanwhile, the price of a Kalashnikov, with ammunition and an ammo belt, is estimated at around SP200,000 (about $1,150). It is worth mentioning that the people of Gharanij handed over all of their weapons—350 rifles—two months ago, just as IS confiscated a number of weapons that they found in empty houses in the village during their search campaigns.
They also confiscated quantities of weapons from the oil traders located in the village.
It [initially] had been decided, as per IS promises, for the people of Gharanij to return on November 15. But the [IS] council responsible for their return surprised them with this demand [for weapons], which they said was issued by a military official in Deir e-Zor [Wilayat al-Kheir].
So the villagers of Gharanij began to buy and gather weapons, then hand them over—perhaps the promises would be kept this time and they could return to their villages.
IS imposed several conditions on [so-called] “repentant” villagers in case they returned, and published these conditions on November 13.
If the families of Gharanij returned, after they handed over their weapons, it was decided that the [IS] committee responsible for the return of families to al-Kashkik and Abu Hamam would begin [their work]. Also, a paper was distributed, to be kept by the families of Gharanij in their houses [to prove that these families were pardoned by IS].
The families of Gharanij were scared that problems, or detentions, or a new “liquidation” campaign would begin if they returned, as they had heard some threats from officials in the Islamic State.
On November 15, when the people of Gharanij met to receive their entrance forms, a leader in the Islamic State addressed them in the city of Hajin and said that IS realizes that many people were exposed to injustice, and that was due to some supporters of IS from the Shaitat tribe who tried to clear up personal grievances with other tribesmen, which caused events to blow up in July.
He promised that IS would bring those to justice [administer Qasas] in front of the populace after they returned and compensate the injured parties. He asked the people to forgive the Islamic State.
After he ended his speech, people learned that IS had decided to cancel their return, and imposed on them the handing over of 600 Kalashnikovs which I mentioned above.
The Shaitat were exposed last August to a barbaric campaign, during which time IS killed many innocents indiscriminately, and stole their money, and looted their houses and flocks indiscriminately, after clashes that occurred between members of the villages Abu Hamam and al-Kashkiya and between IS.