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You're In The IS Army Now

According to one recruitment guide, Islamic State volunteers can enjoy ice cream on their days off.
According to one recruitment guide, Islamic State volunteers can enjoy ice cream on their days off.

They've run away from home, made it across the Turkish border into Syria and made it to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group.

But what happens to wannabe IS militants when they finally reach their destination?

Luckily, two recent IS recruitment guides in English and Russian have provided information about what rookie militants can expect to happen when they fulfill their dream of traveling to IS-controlled Syria.

Split Genders

The Russian IS recruitment guide, written by Daghestani militant Mukhammad Abu Barud ad-Daghestani and shared on the Russian VKontakte social network, is upfront about warning new recruits that men and women will be segregated upon arrival in Syria.

"The principle is, boys on the right, girls on the left," Abu Barud says. "It's Shari'a [Islamic law], nothing personal."

New recruits will then be sent to a training camp, where they will be made to hand over any cellphones, tablets, or other electronic devices.

Abu Barud recognizes that being separated from one's cellphone could be a traumatic experience for some rookie militants, and advises that people simply relax and go with the flow.

"Chilling out without your phone for a couple of months is good for everyone," Abu Barud says. "And while you are without that 21st century plague, you should spend time reading the Koran."

Stop Bickering

New IS recruits will have to live with other rookies from all over the world, which could lead to tensions and bickering, Abu Barud warns.

"I had French, Vietnamese, Senegalese, Dutch, Turks, Sudanese, even a brother from one of the Caribbean islands living with me," explains Abu Barud.

"That's not counting the Russian diaspora from the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and the Caucasus.... We have to put up with each other."

Leave The Wife In Turkey

Men who bring their wives to Syria with them should know that "women quickly get nervy," Abu Barud adds.

While their husbands go through basic training, women are placed in all-female housing where they often end up "fighting, in tears, and so on," Abu Barud explains.

Male militants are advised to leave their wives in Turkey until they have passed basic training and been placed into a fighting battalion, at which point they can just go and collect them from the Turkish border.

But whatever he decides, a man should not leave his wife forever "in the lands of the infidels," Abu Barud adds.

Deadly Waiting List

The English-language IS guidebook, a 100-page document titled The Islamic State (2015), is far longer, less chatty, and offers more detailed information than Abu Barud about what new recruits face when they arrive in Syria.

New recruits are immediately sent to training camps, the guide explains, where they undergo intensive weapons training as well as learn how to run through obstacle courses and jog on "difficult terrain."

Key militant skills like assassination techniques, chemical warfare, electronics, interrogation survival, and forging identity papers are also topics covered in IS's boot camp.

Indeed, IS boot camp is no place for couch potatoes.

A timetable for the training camp included in the guidebook reveals that new recruits are subjected to grueling 17-hour days. After waking for half an hour of prayers just before 5 a.m., trainee militants must study the Koran for an hour before heading out at 6.30 a.m. for "intense running/foot exercises."

More prayers, lessons in weapons handling, and religious studies fill the rest of the day until recruits can finally sleep at 10 p.m.

Those who pass basic training are rewarded with an award ceremony -- before being sent to the front lines.

But those who want to sign up to be suicide bombers have to be patient," the guidebook explains. "They are "put in [sic] a waiting list."

Explosive Belts And Ice Cream

Being an IS militant is not all frontline fighting, though. According to the guidebook, fighters have days off from the front lines when they can "live a normal life."

Those recruits who have graduated basic training are given money, and the guidebook offers suggestions for how they might wish to spend it.

New militants "can buy more weapons, explosive-martyrdom [suicide] belts, or even simply ice cream from the Souks [shopping centers] when they are free from battle and back in the city," the guide explains.

Real Man's World

The guidebook portrays life in IS-controlled Syria as a paradise for weapons lovers, a place where "most households have fully automatic weapons.... And loser Americans think they have freedom: what a laugh!"

The IS caliphate is also a place where one can "purchase hand grenades from street vendors with gold coins," the guidebook boasts. "This is how men are meant to live."

Meanwhile, new recruits are supplied with an AK-47 rifle and five magazines, though those with money are allowed to purchase their own, according to the guidebook.

Meal Ticket

If the abundance of weapons were not enough to encourage wannabe militants to join IS, the guidebook offers a further incentive -- free meals.

"People can visit a restaurant in Al-Raqqa and get three meals a day for free," the guidebook claims.

In contrast to "capitalist Western states," those living under IS rule are also provided with free electricity and water (though gas has to be bought from stores in gas canisters), as well as free hospital treatment and medicines, according to the guidebook.

The guidebook did not explain how IS subsidizes public services and utilities.

Tough Love

IS has become synonymous with extreme, brutal punishments, and the guidebook does not shy away from addressing this issue.

"Yes [IS] has severe punishments for murder, adultery, theft, and crimes which cause corruption of the land," admits the guidebook.

Punishments like 80 lashes for drinking alcohol, amputating the hands for theft, or stoning to death for adultery "ensure people can live securely with good family life," the guidebook explains.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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