Spoils for the rulers, terror for the ruled
By Kevin Sullivan | Photos by Charles Ommanney, WashPost
October 1, 2015
The white vans come out at dinnertime, bringing hot meals to unmarried Islamic State fighters in the city of Hit in western Iraq.
A team of foreign women, who moved from Europe and throughout the Arab world to join the Islamic State, work in communal kitchens to cook the fighters’ dinners, which are delivered to homes confiscated from people who fled or were killed, according to the city’s former mayor.
The Islamic State has drawn tens of thousands of people from around the world by promising paradise in the Muslim homeland it has established on conquered territory in Syria and Iraq.
But in reality, the militants have created a brutal, two-tiered society, where daily life is starkly different for the occupiers and the occupied, according to interviews with more than three dozen people who are now living in, or have recently fled, the Islamic State.
Foreign fighters and their families are provided free housing, medical care, religious education and even a sort of militant meals-on-wheels service, according to those interviewed. The militants are paid salaries raised largely from taxes and fees levied on the millions of people they control, in an arc of land as big as the United Kingdom.
Those whose cities and towns are held by the Islamic State said they face not only the casual savagery of militants who behead their enemies and make sex slaves out of some minority women but also severe shortages of the basics of daily life.
Many residents have electricity for only an hour or two a day, and some homes go days without running water. Jobs are scarce, so many people can’t afford food prices that have tripled or more. Medical care is poor, most schools are closed, and bans on most travel outside the Islamic State are enforced at gunpoint.