New Report Highlights 7 Torture Techniques Used in ISIS Prisons

ISIS Crucifies
A masked ISIS militant reads the charges facing the two men tied to a cross, who were later shot in the back of the head for banditry, Mosul, Iraq. |

A new report that analyzes the Islamic State's prison system, interrogation procedures and use of torture has outlined seven different torture methods used by the jihadi death cult on their captives.

As IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Deash) has been pushed out of its stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this summer and coalition efforts are working to push the group out of its de-facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, a report released last week is giving the world a glimpse of what happened when someone was imprisoned and tortured in one of IS' prisons.

Titled "The ISIS Prison System: Its Structure, Departmental Affiliations, Processes, Conditions, and Practices of Psychological and Physical Torture," the report was published by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, which interviewed 72 people, 55 of which were former IS prisoners, defectors and returnees. The other 17 were Syrian civilians who had been detained by IS.

"The accounts obtained from ISIS cadres, detainees and sources on the ground provided a chilling portrayal of ISIS' prison system," the report explained. "The detention facilities are run by different entities. These entities are namely: the Islamic police, military police, hisbah (morality police), raid squads, and Emni (security forces). Methods of detention, conditions, and torture and punishment varied across the aforementioned entities."

IS detainees were subject to various psychological methods of torture that included death threats, threats and solitary confinement. The report explained that militants also inflicted mental torture on their captives by locking them in cells with severed heads.

But when it came to physical torture methods, there were seven different torture methods used by the militants on their prisoners.

The first form of torture is one that is commonly used by the jihadis and others throughout the world as a form of punishment for a crime — lashing.

The report noted that lashing is the group's "primary method of torture."

"In the case of physical abuse, captors use canes, hoses and industrial cables to beat victims," the report detailed, adding that lashing is also used in combination with other forms of torture on prisoners.

The second form of tortured described in the report is called "The Fuel" and could be the least common method used by IS.

The method involves IS militants pouring crude oil on seated and cuffed victims from the chest down. The militants threaten to light the victim on fire if he or she doesn't confess to their crime.

A 33-year-old former detainee who was accused of being affiliated with the Free Syrian Army told researchers that a day after he was chained and lashed, he was subject to the "fuel" method."

"[My captor] brought a gallon jug and poured oil on me; from the chest down," the man was quoted in the report as saying, adding that he was strapped to a concrete chair. "He said confess or I will burn you. I thought he was trying to scare me. I did not know that he would do it. Next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital."

The ICSVE report also shared a photo showing burn marks all over the victim's body.

Another form of torture used by the group is called "Bisat al-Rih" or "Flying Carpet." The report explained that the "Flying Carpet" is a device made of two hinged metal or wood boards in which a rectangular bar is placed on the upper board. The device is used to bend victims bodies into different positions.

"The flying carpet is mobile and can be placed on a stage or table. It can also be folded. Victims' legs and arms are tied with their back against the boards, making them unable to move as their captors inflict pain up on them," the report explained. "The captors often fold the board, bending victims of torture in a variety of L-shape positions. Another position that captors use to maximize pain is carried out by bending the two boards inward and close to each other. In this V-shape position, the victim's feet and head are brought close to each other, causing serious, often permanent, injuries to the spine."

Prisoners are often beaten while they are in the v-position and are subjected to electric shocks.

Another torture method commonly used by IS, is called "Sabeh" or "Ghost," a technique in which the prisoner's hands are cuffed and the prisoner is suspended off the ground so that his or her feet can't touch the floor. Once suspended, victims were often beaten, electrocuted and left there for days.

Being left in that position can cause prisoners' shoulders to become dislocated and can lead to permanent disability.

"The German Chair" is another method used by IS. The technique uses a metal seat designed in a way that the captor is able to move the back of the seat backwards.

"Using this method, captors tie the victim's arms and legs to the seat and abruptly jerk it backward, leading to severe pressure on the victim's limbs and neck and resulting in acute stress to the victim's spine," the report noted.

Victims who are subject to this method are often left with permanent injuries.

Another torture method employed by the terrorists requires a tire with a large hole in the center. According to the report, the method is called "The Tire."

"Using this method, the victim's head and legs are forced through the rim of a large tire, bending him and immobilizing the victim's movement. Once forced into that position, victims are beaten using industrial cables, canes, and/or electric prods. Torturers use this position to amplify the inflicted pain."

The last torture method detailed in the report is one whose usage by IS' all-female police force has been widely reported on the last three years — "The Biter," which is a flesh-ripping torture device mainly applied to the breasts of female captives.

The device is applied to women who are accused of breaking one of IS' strict sharia laws regulating how women appear in public. Women could be subject to this device if they don't cover their heads in public or for breastfeeding in public.

One woman who spoke with the researchers explained that the all-female IS police force used the device on her simply because they thought the soap she used to wash her hands smelled like perfume. She was told that wearing perfume in public is like having sex "with every man who smells you."

"The tool is composed of iron jaws. Overall, the tool looks like large tongs or pliers. Captors often apply the metal jaws to the victim's' breast causing severe pain," the report described.

The co-authors of the report are Ahmet S. Yayla, the former chief of the Turkish National Police's counterterrorism and operations division; ICSVE Director Anne Speckhard, who is also an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School; and Syrian ICSVE research fellow Asaad Almohammad, Ph.D.

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