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The New Arab

Life under IS rule: fear of apostasy

Under Islamic State rule, apostasy refers to both religious sinners and political enemies [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2016

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Witnesses from Mosul spoke to The New Arab's sister Arabic publication about life under Islamic State group rule and the militants' new tactic for sowing fear among the city's residents.
The Islamic State group is carrying out an unprecedented number of public beheadings of "apostates" in the Iraqi city of Mosul, a resident has said. 

The weakened and paranoid militants are attempting to control its population through fear and obedience, locals have claimed, and this is being carried out by IS-sanctioned murder.

A witness of these crimes spoke to The New Arab about IS' regime of fear. He said that the group is taking an even more draconian line its territories by organising daily "executions" against suspected dissidents. 

"Death sentences" are being handed out by IS-judges for the crime of "apostasy" ever more frequently. 

It is a catch-all crime the jihadi group uses against all activists and opponents.

Even those found guilty of committing menial crimes - like theft or public delinquency - can be charged with apostasy. But it is most frequently dished out to those found speaking out against IS militants or the group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"We consciously try not to speak out against their rule," Kamal told The New Arab.

The Mosul resident witnessed the execution of one of his closest friends, who refused to pray behind an IS-militant imam.

"How can this man lead the prayers when we all know he is a thief?" the Iraqi quoted his now-deceased friend having said.

"Just because IS declared him imam does not make him worthy of leading the prayers."

These remarks were overheard and quickly reported.

As has become the norm, the crime Kamal's friend was executed for was "apostasy".

"There are IS patrols everywhere you go and they report everything they hear," Kamal added.

Public killings

Public squares, busy roads, and anywhere the public gathers - especially parks and play-areas - have all become gruesome sites of execution.
Crowds - having already been instructed to gather - watch on as the executioner raises a sword before ending the victim's life.

Witnesses say that militants usually arrive at the spot in cars or on the back of pickup vans with their victims trussed and tied.

They then drag their victim to the spot they will be murdered, forcing them to their knees.

Crowds - having already been instructed to gather - watch on as the executioner raises a sword before ending the victim's life.

The function of the daily public killings is to instil an atmosphere of fear. Dedicated IS divisions assist by spreading news of executions by driving around Mosul using loudspeakers to announce the killings.

During one announcement they said they killed "a family while trying to escape from the 'land of the Islamic caliphate'", one man told The New Arab.

"These are the types of announcements they make every time a family tried to escape their rule," he added, "They are accused of apostasy, and subsequently executed."

"Such warnings made us very fearful. Everyone would be scared to meet the same fate and so they would choose to stay here - even if they get the chance to escape - for fear of getting caught."

IS militants have also accused close family members of being "apostates" - a guaranteed death sentence in Mosul.

"One of my brothers was killed after he was accused of apostasy," said one man.

"He was reported by my cousin, who is a member of IS, for accusing IS of being a criminal group. As long as one IS member witnesses a wrongdoing that is enough to persecute the individual," he added.

It is hard for many living in Mosul to deal with daily displays of executions, knowing that they could be accused of the crime at any time.

Many locals do everything they can to avoid these public areas. But the Islamic State group militants roam every part of the city, eager to let Mosul residents know the punishment for opposing their rule.

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