“I’ve only seen hostility and fear in the eyes of people”: ISIS dissident

An image published by the ISIS-linked Dabiq magazine showing one of the group's militants.

ARA News

Erbil, Kurdistan Region – The Islamic State group (IS/ISIS) depends on various types of military and security plans in the areas under its control, including the so-called “secret cells”. The group tries to impose its control over new areas in Syria through its secret agents. The Islamic State is also making efforts to compensate for recent losses against the Kurds and rebel factions by finding new strategies for survival. 

In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Abu Salah, a dissident from the ranks of the IS group who recently arrived in Turkey, said that the group is relying upon activists to collect information about various conflict-related issues.

Abu Salah, who has been active in the ranks of the Islamic State in Shaddadi city south of Syria’s Hasakah for nearly a year, said that the militant group has recruited hundreds of former members of the Baath Party to work as “secret cells” on behalf of the group in different areas outside of IS control. 

“Those members of the group are careful about their dress and behavior not to look like IS followers, as their activities depend on confidentiality. Once the affiliation of anyone of them with the group is revealed, they’re being reported to the group’s leadership,” Abu Salah told ARA News. 

“Using motorcycles and cars in their movements, these agents are wandering all over the region to collect relevant information.” 

The IS dissident fighter confirmed to ARA News that former Baathists recruited by the Islamic State intend to show their opposition to the group in public, “but at the same time they facilitate the spread of IS control over new areas by leaking information about the status of security checkpoints held by various anti-IS armed forces and the entrances and exits of towns and cities which the group plans to invade. They also report violations against regulations of the caliphate.”

The dissident militant added that some of these security agents of the group are local residents who have devoted themselves to serving the Islamic State in return for monthly payments.

“In some cases, they’re assigned to pursue activists with links to the Syrian opposition factions or the regime, to collect intelligence information on behalf of the IS, and they later refer those activists to the group for arrest and execution,” Abu Salah told ARA News. 

These agents, known as “secret cells”, have direct contact with Abu Dawood al-Tunisi, the current head of the Security Department of the IS, according to the dissident member of the group.

No Popular Incubator 

“The Islamic State has never enjoyed a popular incubator in Syria,” said Abu Salah. “Over one year of experience in the ranks of the group, I’ve only seen hostility and fear in the eyes of people.”

He pointed out that people in ISIS-held areas intend to show loyalty out of fear, “while their hostility towards the group is being expressed when exposed to extremely brutal behavior against them or their family members.”

“Before storming any town or village, a large proportion of residents in the targeted area try to flee, while those trapped tend to show loyalty to the caliphate and gather in public squares to allegedly welcome the militants.”

“I don’t think any IS member believes that civilians are really glad to meet them and live under their rule,” the dissident IS member told ARA News.

This is Why I Left 

About the reason for his dissidence from the ranks of the radical group, Abu Salah said: “I joined the group at a time when I was willing to pledge allegiance to anyone who could provide me with weapons to fight against the Syrian regime that killed half of my family. I was trying to avoid any clashes with rebel factions.”

“However, I was recently accused of loyalty to other Islamist factions other than the Islamic State, and I was then obliged to join any fighting fronts against my will, but in the meantime I was trying to find a safe way out of the country,” he said.

While being obliged to fight the anti-Assad rebels was the first reason for his defection from the group, Abu Salah explained the second main reason for his decision saying: “In the last two months, the group’s brutality against peaceful civilians had dramatically increased.”

“I witnessed the torture and beheading of dozens of innocent people charged of absolutely false accusations. This raised my outrage, but I couldn’t demonstrate any opposition against the leadership’s decisions,” he told ARA News.

“After every failed military operation, the militants’ pressure on civilians in areas of control became far worse raising, and the persecution and suppression was mounting, as if they wanted to compensate for their military failure by increasing fear among civilians to emphasize their power,” the dissident said. 

“Two weeks ago I found a secure route to Turkey and left this misery behind me. But I’m not sure if I can ever forgive myself for that one year in the ranks of barbarians,” Abu Salah concluded. 


Interview by: Sarbaz Yousef

Source: ARA News

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