Inside Islamic State: crucifixions, severed heads, indoctrination

A documentary by an Arab journalist provides a chilling portrayal of life in northern Syria and Iraq

An Islamic State fighter keeps guard as  employees of the group, hired to monitor and check the quality of goods in markets, throw away confiscated products in central Raqqa. Photograph: Reuters

An Islamic State fighter keeps guard as employees of the group, hired to monitor and check the quality of goods in markets, throw away confiscated products in central Raqqa. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 06:36

Until now, journalists who attempted to cover the Sunni Muslim fundamentalist enclave in northern Syria and Iraq known as the Islamic State were invariably taken hostage.

Medyan Dairieh, a London- based Palestinian war reporter, won the group’s trust through his past reporting on jihadists. Dairieh was embedded with IS officials for three weeks in Raqqa, Syria, the “capital” of the Islamic caliphate.

The New York-based website Vice News has published Dairieh’s 44-minute documentary on life inside the Islamic State online. The group seized most of Raqqa in March 2013, when it called itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Isis.


Jolly jihadists show Dairieh around Raqqa and the former Syrian-Iraqi border, smiling beatifically and raising an index finger to bear witness to the oneness of God. We discover a merciless theocracy, where women are not seen, morals police patrol with weapons, children clamour to kill “infidels” and dismembered or crucified corpses are displayed in the streets.

Abu Mosa, the press officer for the Islamic State, takes Dairieh to the front line with the Syrian 17th division, who are holding out in a former industrial zone, their supplies parachuted to them. The fighters shout “Takbir!” – the Arabic word signifying the phrase “Allahu Akhbar!” – then open fire.

Heads on spikes

At least 50 Syrian government soldiers were killed when the base was overrun on July 25th. The documentary shows their bloody and dismembered bodies lined up on the pavements of Raqqa, their severed heads impaled on the spikes of a wrought iron fence.

The indoctrination of children in one of the most shocking aspects of Dairieh’s report. “I swear allegiance to (IS leader and self-proclaimed caliph) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!” boys aged 10, 11 and 12 repeat in the Raqqa mosque.

A man calling himself Abdullah the Belgian has brought his “preaching car” to the banks of the Euphrates, where men and boys frolic in the water. He introduces his young son, who appears to be five or six years old.

“Do you want to go back to Belgium?” he asks. No, the boy says, Belgium is full of infidels who kill Muslims. He wants to be a jihadist.

Abdullah the Belgian preaches, working himself into a lachrymose frenzy. “We will capture your women as you captured our women. We will orphan your children as you orphaned our children.”

“This generation of children is the generation of the caliphate, who will fight the infidels and the apostates,” Abu Mosa explains. A nine-year-old says that after Ramadan he will go to a camp “to learn to shoot the Kalashnikov to fight the Russians, the Americans, the infidels.” Daoud, 14, wants “to join IS and kill with them ...”

Dairieh attends a night-time celebration of the establishment of the caliphate, complete with flag-waving, testimonials and singing – “Beautiful virgins are calling . . .” He then goes on patrol with the Hisbah, or morals police.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.