A mixed Sunni-Shia family that once lived in ISIS' Iraqi stronghold of Mosul but has fled to live in the Kurdish north after the militant group took over the town last June, has provided deeper insight and revelations about the horrors that people living under the jihadis brand of sharia rule must deal with.
In an interview with the Iraqi news website Rudaw that was published on Tuesday, the Al-Saraj family, with the father being a Sunni and the mother being a Shia, explained that although they are now living in the Kurdish town of Dohuk, they still maintain contact with their friends and loved ones that are still inside Mosul and subjected to the barbarity of the group's rule.
While it is no secret that the Islamic State regularly amputates the hands of grown adults who have been accused of stealing inside its strongholds, apparently no exception is given by the militants when a child is accused of stealing.
In the interview, the Saraj daughter, who is referred to as just "SA," read a text message that she received from one of her friends that still lives in Mosul, which indicated that the group's police force amputated the hands of four kids for stealing.
"Yesterday they cut off the hands of four kids, ages 12, 11, 13 and 16," the friend texted to SA. "One of the kids stole a toy bird, another stole an electric cable."
SA's brother, who is referenced as "Ibrahim," added to SA's comments by showing the Rudaw reporter a video of a preteen being shot in the back of the head, execution style, by ISIS militants because he stole food when he was hungry.
The report explains that because of ISIS' takeover in Mosul, there has been a food shortage in the town and it is somewhat understandable why the child stole the food. The video also shows the kid's father pleading for his son's life before he was ultimately executed.
"He stole something, he wanted to eat," Ibrahim stated.
The mother, who was referred to as "RS," is a women's rights activist and described the strict punishments that the Islamic State has imposed on women that violate its strict laws.
"They cut off their hair, some are stoned, some are shot, and some are beheaded for adultery," RS said. "If the woman has a boyfriend, the punishment is stoning. If she has more than one boyfriend, she'll be shot."
Additionally, the family added that under ISIS rule a Sunni man and a Shia woman are not allowed to marry and if the group found out that a Sunni man is married to a Shia woman, the group forces the man to divorce his wife.
The family also disclosed that many families in Mosul are afraid to send their daughters to school because of the tendency of the militants to go to the schools and take girls from class and force them to marry, adding that the fighters tend to pick non-muslim girls.
"For Yazidis, if a girl is under eight, nothing happens, but if she's older than eight, they force her to have sex with the jihadists," RS said.
The father, who was given the initials "MS," explained how ISIS militants were preparing citizens in the towns to eventually be human shields for ISIS fighters during times of battle by closing down all the barbershops and forcing men to grown out long hair and beards. The thought behind that strategy is that when the Kurds, Iraqi forces or Christian militias attack ISIS militants in Mosul, they will have a hard time differentiating between civilians and actual ISIS fighters.
MS said that since ISIS has taken over and applied its strict brand of sharia law, there has been a growing resentment toward ISIS in Mosul, although many in town initially welcomed the militants. He added that he suspects the group only has about 2,000 fighters to police a town that once was home to over two million.
Of the 2,000 ISIS fighters, MS suspects that only half of them are actually from Iraq, while the other half are foreign fighters recruited from all over the world. Although MS thinks that ISIS does not have enough manpower to fully police the town, he said the people of Mosul have not risen up against the rule of ISIS because they are terrified by the group's brutality.
He also added that it does not help that before ISIS took over the town, the Kurdish government forces "went house to house and took all the weapons" in order to prevent a rebel uprising. But in doing that, the Kurds left Mosul residents with nothing more than a knives to defend themselves, their families and their property.
"People are like sheep now," Ibrahim added. "They don't have weapons, only knives."
As thousands of families have fled Iraq because of the rise of ISIS and the population in ISIS' strongholds has decreased, the group has found ways to prevent people from completely fleeing the town. According to the report, people that now want to leave Mosul must give ISIS the deed to their home or some kind of collateral to ensure that they will return.
Although the family has fled Mosul and now lives in an apartment in Dohuk , they still can not enjoy complete freedom.
Since the family is a Muslim family living in a Kurdish area, the parents explained that many in the area believe they are ISIS supporters and they are not allowed to go out after dark and must report to the Kurdish government twice every month.