Middle East

Daesh obsessions: Beards and concubines

An Iraqi soldier shows a pamphlet which reads "Wearing beards is compulsory, shaving is prohibited" along a street of the town of al-Shura, which was recaptured from Islamic State (IS) on Saturday, south of Mosul, Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

ZARQA/SHURA, Iraq: After Daesh (ISIS) conquered villages in northern Iraq, it spelled out in minute detail the rules of its self-proclaimed caliphate, from beard length to alms to guidelines for taking women as sex slaves. Daesh documents and posters, obtained in villages captured by Iraqi forces, highlight a tight and comprehensive system of rule by the militants, who went to great lengths to explain their extremist philosophy.

The documents and other materials, printed with Daesh logos, were found by Reuters in offices used by the group until a few days ago. Members of the Iraqi forces told Reuters the documents originated from Daesh, although this could not be independently verified.

Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have seized several villages and towns during an offensive against the northern city of Mosul, Daesh’s last stronghold in the country.

When Daesh swept through the north in 2014, it announced a self-proclaimed caliphate, which appealed to some fellow Sunnis who felt marginalized by the Shiite-led central government.

But that appeal faded as Daesh enforced its medieval thinking with brute force, beheading anyone deemed an opponent.

Slick, colorful posters, pamphlets and documents highlight Daesh’s intense focus on dictating what it called proper Islamic behavior for the citizens of its caliphate.

Violations meant punishment such as public whipping or being hauled off to Mosul for execution, according to several villagers who recently escaped from Daesh areas.

A green wallet-size insert lays out guidelines for how to pray properly. It shows a young boy undertaking ablutions. “Wash your feet from the direction of your toes down to your heels,” it said.

A five-page pamphlet with pictures of gold bracelets, diamond rings and wheat on the front spelled out instructions on how to give alms, an obligation under Islam. Failure to do so would mean a penalty.

In the village of Al-Shura, where seven Daesh suicide bombers were recently shot dead as they rushed toward Iraqi forces, militants kept meticulous records of who had given alms. Entries showed whether an individual owned gold, property or a car. Monthly salaries were also noted.

Unlike Al-Qaeda, its predecessor in Iraq, Daesh made its name in the world by becoming the first militant group to capture significant amounts of land in the Middle East, hold it and then set up an administration.

But airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition targeting Daesh’s leaders and its sources of income have dealt a major blow to the caliphate.

Daesh’s inclination to codify its system of rule extended to what it called the spoils of war.

A pink and red pamphlet includes 32 questions and answers on how to deal with female captives.

A senior Daesh preacher has the authority to distribute female captives among its fighters, it said.

“Non-Muslim women can be taken as concubines,” according to the leaflet.

Militants can own two sisters as concubines but only have sex with one. “Prepubescent girls can be taken as concubines. You cannot have penetrative sex but you can still enjoy them,” the leaflet added.

One question in the pamphlet asks whether a group of militants can share a concubine. The answer: Only a single owner can sleep with a concubine.

After blazing through northern Iraq, Daesh took hundreds of women from the Yazidi minority as sex slaves.

Under Daesh’s rules, women were required to stay at home or wear head-to-toe black coverings if they ventured out. Men wore short pants which were deemed Islamic along with beards of appropriate length.

One of the pamphlets begins by defining a beard as “hair that grows on your face and your cheeks.”

There were few forms of entertainment under Daesh, which banned the internet and music along with cellphones.

A ban on satellite dishes deprived Iraqis of news of the outside world. In a huge slick poster, entitled “Why I Should Destroy My Dish,” the militants provided 20 reasons, revolving mostly around the immorality of satellite television programs.

Reason 8: “Because satellite channels show stories of love and naked women and inappropriate language.”

Reason 10: “Because satellite channels normalize men being effeminate and sissies.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 02, 2016, on page 8.

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