Life inside the world's most notorious terror organization isn't all murder and mayhem. Veteran members of Islamic State are using a social-networking website to answer more mundane questions from militant wannabes, who want to know the answers to such prosaic questions as what to wear, how cold it gets, if they have to buy their own weapons, whether there's Wi-Fi, and if they have to clean up after themselves.
The website Ask.fm has become a popular forum for Western, English-speaking Islamic State militants to talk about what life is like inside the extremist group -- and to pass on information to those who are thinking of joining.
"Will there be central heating?"
Some recruits are concerned that the weather might be different than at home.
“how cold does it get there akhy (my brother)?” one IS wannabe asked a British Islamic State militant who calls himself Abu Fariss.
Abu Fariss warned the potential recruit that in Syria, IS militants do not have the same creature comforts as at home.
“Veryyy cold and its not like UK, no central heating,” he told the wannabe militant. Abu Fariss instructed another potential IS recruit to bring warm clothing.
“What about my braces?”
Other potential IS gunmen were worried that medical services in war-torn Syria and Iraq might not be as good as the U.K.’s National Health Service.
One potential recruit had a question about dentistry: “is there good healthcare there? because i wear braces...or should i wait till they come off (about 9 months) then make hijrah (emigration)??”
“I’ve seen mujahideen with braces, come here inshallah (God willing). Theres good healthcare,” Abu Fariss said.
Abu Fariss admitted to another potential recruit that contact lenses could pose a problem for a militant in an extremist group.
“how easy is it to get contact lenses there? are they expensive?” the IS hopeful asked.
“Abu dujana [another British IS militant, who was killed in Syria] used to wear contacts. He said he didn’t like it because of the fact of if theres an...alert of an attack it would take like 5 mins to position the lens and make sure its comfortable whilst your being attacked... another thing is that if dust goes in your eyes whilst you’re in a battle = problem lol. He would prefer glasses over lens,” Abu Fariss explained.
“Is there internet in Syria?”
Many potential IS recruits are concerned about the availability of Wi-Fi -- wireless Internet -- in Syria and Iraq, and whether there are Internet cafes.
“Do you think in the future they will improve wi-fi and stuff? Like it will be available to more people once the state gets more stable and expands?” one potential recruit wanted to know.
Abu Fariss replied in the affirmative.
“Can I have a Yezidi slave?”
For some potential recruits, the appeal of fighting in Syria with Islamic State appears to be rather specific.
“Could you take captured woman as slaves? As your right hand possession?” one IS wannabe wanted to know.
“Dawlah (IS) sorts that out,” was the succinct response.
“Do I have to cook and clean?”
Several recruits were worried about having to cook for themselves in Syria.
“Do u have to cook for yourself and clean everyday?” asked one.
Abu Fariss was quick to reassure them: IS has cooks. However, militants have to cook for themselves (unless, of course, they bring their mother or sisters with them).
“It depends, if you're married you get days off. Also depends on the type of work you do, if you’re front line a lot there are cooks for your katiba (brigade) and stuff. However cleaning you have to do it yourself unless you're married or you have your family with you (mum, sisters etc),” he said.
“What should I wear?”
“Do i have to bring clothes to fight in. Will dowlah give me dem shalwar kamees (traditional clothing worn in parts of South and Central Asia) and other camo gear?” one potential recruit asked a British IS militant named Abu Qa’qa al-Britani.
Abu Qa’qa reassured the questioner that IS provides its militants with clothes.
“[A]nd also you can buy here and get them tailor made,” he added, presumably as an extra incentive.
“How much does it cost, and do I have to buy my own weapon?”
Another IS hopeful wanted to know how much money he would need to travel to “khilafa land” -- the lands controlled by IS militants.
“In the land of Khilāfah (the Caliphate), nothing really at all is provided. All that's needed is to pay towards getting here,” Abu Qa’qa replied.
Also on the subject of money, other potential IS recruits are eager to find out how much cash they will have to lay out for weapons.
“Do u pay for ur weapons?” asked one IS wannabe.
“No, we get weapons from Dawlatul-Islāmiyyah (IS),” was the response from Abu Qa’qa, who noted in an earlier question that should a new IS militant wish to purchase his own weapons, a modern AKM Kalashnikov assault rifle will set him back around $1,200, while an older AK-47 costs even more.
“Bring your parents along”
Among the potential IS recruits asking Abu Fariss and Abu Qa’qa questions are women, who mostly wanted to know what life was like for women in the areas controlled by IS.
One woman said she was having doubts about coming and about leaving without her parents’ consent.
Abu Qa’qa reassured her that she should come to Syria and suggested she bring her parents along.
“As for you coming, your parents’ approval isn't necessary even though it’s better if you can gain it from them however, the best thing would be to bring them along with you. As for the issue of education, there are Islamic institutes [for] women here. As for academic education I'm unsure as to how far that goes,” he said.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk