Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists captured the city of Al-Mayadeen, located just 45km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, in July 2013. Raising their black standard, the Salafi jihadist group went on to impose a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam, violations of which were punished under Sharia law.
While many civilians left the city prior to the jihadists’ arrival, those who stayed were forced into following IS law and social conduct. A veil of prosecution and torture descended on Al-Mayadeen for over four years, until the Tiger Forces commanded by Syrian Army Brigadier General Suheil Salman al-Hassan pierced through IS defenses last Saturday, liberating the city from the Islamists’ yoke.
Many locals that an RT Arabic crew spoke with recalled that the militants went on to seize people’s properties before instituting a religious police force that was responsible for implementing their social morals in people’s daily lives.
“ISIS took away homes that belonged to my brothers. They confiscated them…to live there,” one Al-Mayadeen native said.
“They had such an agency as the moral police called ‘Hisbah,’”the man said, explaining that it patrolled the city and punished the locals for violating Sharia law. The Islamic doctrine of Hisbah, which translates as “accountability,” empowers the leadership to intervene in the daily conduct of people to forcefully “enjoin good and forbid wrong.”
Force was used widely by the IS Hisbah units, who detained people for the slightest of infractions such as smoking cigarettes or shaving their face.
“Nobody wanted to cooperate with ISIS. I spent six days in prison for smoking one cigarette,” one of the survivors told RT, explaining that people were detained even if they smelled of tobacco.
Showing stubble on his face, the man also told RT that people were held in prison for days for any attempts to shave their facial hair. Explaining that IS demanded all beards to “grow naturally,” the man says he was arrested several times because his facial hair failed to meet their standards.
“They arrested me, then whipped me, tormented me and gave me spoiled food,” another man recalled, explaining that he was imprisoned twice because of his beard, and once because he wore pants instead of traditional jalabiya – an ankle-length, long-sleeved Arab garment.
The stories documented by RT are just a tiny glimpse into the brutality of Islamic State’s justice system. Over the years, thousands of people have suffered for any alleged infractions that were met with punishments including flogging, beheading and burning.
Locals are relieved just to be alive, having suffered IS rule. It ended in a massive retreat of the jihadist forces, despite replenishments with ammo and fighters from Iraq. Even a week after the Syrian Army first entered the city, it continues to discover huge stockpiles of weapons.
“We searched the whole area, which served as the main military ISIS depot,” a Syrian Army soldier told RT. “The neighborhood has underground tunnels and was full of weapons.”
A number of abandoned warehouses full of weapons, left behind by IS fighters as they fled to the east side of the Euphrates River, were filmed by the RT crew embedded with the Syrian forces.
The Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, meanwhile continues to advance on the remaining pockets of terrorist resistance between Al-Mayadeen and Deir ez-Zor city.