Views From Those Who Have Left The Country
What can life be like in the Islamic State ([IS], also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS]), a place under the control of a group known for its atrocities and its extreme interpretation of Sharia law? People who have fled from Raqqa, the capital of IS, to Turkey, have given Al Jazeera some insight into what life is life in that city.
Law And Order
Surprisingly some say that after the 4 years of civil war in Syria, the tight control now being exerted in the country actually offers some respite from the previous chaos and destruction. The new administration has restored electricity supply, painted road signs, imposed taxes, brought in a new education system, and implemented a highly functional, albeit punitive and brutal judicial system.
There is much checking by police patrols and at police checkpoints to ensure that residents adhere to the strict dress code and that they have paid their dues to the state. Women have to be well covered in full-length black burqas, complete and niqab and gloves, and men are stopped for checking on the length of their beards.
Banned products include not just cigarettes and items forbidden by Islam, but also some US products such as Apple phones. Prayer times are rigorously enforced and shops have to shut 5 times a day for prayers.
The revamped educational system includes a new curriculum that has replaced science, history and arts with only Islamic studies and Arabic, the forcing of former teachers to sign a document of “repentance” and to attend religious classes, and making mosque attendance compulsory for students. The sermons are used to recruit young men for the IS movement.
As expected the penalties for breaking any of the rules are harsh. For instance, having too short a beard could mean public lashings, or even imprisonment. Even the barber could be arrested. And displays of beheaded men in public squares and roundabouts are constant reminders of the harsh penalties that await anybody who tries to defy the country’s rules.
However, one attitude taken by those who have stayed is: “If you are a good Muslims, you have nothing to worry about. As long as you pray five times a day, wear the niqab, and don’t smoke”. Another said, “Imagine living in a drug-free society. . . where you can leave your business open and no one touches your stuff”.
Nevertheless, the large numbers of people who have fled the country indicate that the regime is not to everyone’s liking.
Attraction For Foreigners
The Islamic State has been attracting Muslims who want to serve jihad. However, it has also been attracting foreign professionals with skills in information technology, medicine, communications and civics. These immigrants, or muhajireen, have altered the social fabric of the city. All kinds of languages are now heard on the streets, and a class divide has emerged because the foreigners, and the currency they bring, have raised the local economy. The foreigners are paid more than the locals, and given incentives such as free housing, and gas and electricity at subsidized rates.
Think About It
How long can acceptance of a regime like that of the Islamic State be tolerated? If not for the chaos of the civil war just past, would there be such tolerance? Or, with large numbers leaving the country, is there really any tolerance of the regime? What will happen to a society where the education given consists of nothing but religious studies and Arabic? Will it mean even greater reliance on professionals from abroad, and with that, even greater social divide?