[ by Charles Cameron — who believes two well-juxtaposed images are (almost) worth a thousand words from Aaron Zelin ]
It’s almost idyllic, isn’t it — Mosul, with its river, it’s bridge and avenues and trees, as presented by ISIS on the cover of the third issue of its Islamic State Report (upper panel, below)?
Until you take in the lower panel, described by the tweeter who posted it as “#ISIS take women as slaves in #Mosul and #Nineveh”.
ISIS is both liberating (upper panel, and if you’re a Sunni released from Maliki‘s Shia government, it may even feel that way) and enslaving (lower panel, and if you’re a women marching under armed guard to who can tell what destination, that might be your interpretation of events).
Aaron Zelin wrote the thousand words that frankly outbid my double image — they’re posted under the title The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Has a Consumer Protection Office in the Atlantic:
In the Syrian town of Manbij, for example, ISIS officials cut off the hands of four robbers. In Raqqa, they forced shops to close for selling poor products in the suq (market) as well as regular supermarkets and kebab stands—a move that was likely the work of itsConsumer Protection Authority office. ISIS has also whipped individuals forinsulting their neighbors, confiscated and destroyed counterfeit medicine, and on multiple occasions summarily executed and crucified individuals for apostasy. Members have burned cartons of cigarettes and destroyed shrines and graves, including the famous Uways al-Qarani shrine in Raqqa.
Beyond these judicial measures, ISIS also invests in public works. In April, for instance, it completed a new suq in al-Raqqa for locals to exchange goods. Additionally, the group runs an electricity officethat monitors electricity-use levels, installs newpower lines, and hosts workshops on how to repair old ones. The militants fix potholes, bus people between the territories they control, rehabilitateblighted medians to make roads more aesthetically pleasing, and operate a post office and zakat (almsgiving) office (which the group claims has helped farmers with their harvests). Most importantly for Syrians and Iraqis downriver, ISIS has continued operating the Tishrin dam (renaming it al-Faruq) on the Euphrates River. Through all of these offices and departments, ISIS is able to offer a semblance of stability in unstable and marginalized areas, even if many locals do not like its ideological program.
A pincer movement: stability with purity, or charity with a vengeance!
For further reading, here’s Zelin’s Bibliography on the History and Evolution of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.