Two women living under the Islamic State risked their lives to capture scenes of daily life using hidden cameras in the terror group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa.
The two women, identified only as Om Omran and Om Mohammad, commissioned by Swedish outlet and CNN affiliate Expressen TV, were able to capture raw footage confirming realities on the ground for the Syrian city that has been in the clutches of ISIS since they seized full control in January 2014.
The video shows armed men walking about the city amongst women who are entirely covered by multiple burqas, female faces scribbled out on packages of women’s products in stores and an ISIS police headquarters in place of what was once the Armenian Catholic Church of the Martyrs.
Luxury apartment buildings that used to belong to wealthy Syrians driven out or killed by ISIS now house foreign ISIS fighters; Considered more brutal than Syrian members, foreign fighters come from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, France, other European countries and Saudi Arabia – the country from which a majority of the foreign fighters originate.
The women also discuss the “Hisbah,” ISIS’ religious police, also made up of foreign women, mostly from Europe, who hold a higher status than Syrian ISIS members and are known to imprison, punish or flog women who disobey the Islamic State’s strict interpretation of Sharia law.
The two women point out that women living under ISIS have no rights, except for the right to obey and to bear children, and are not allowed to work, walk the streets alone or attend school or universities.
“All women like to show their face. We’ve lost that option. We’ve lost our femininity,” Om Omran said, troubled by the Islamic State’s demand that women must be completely covered.
“I can’t see anything if I cover up my eyes. I have poor eyesight. How am I supposed to see if I cover my eyes?”
Discussing ISIS’ method of execution, one of the women says, “They execute with bullets, desecrate the body, decapitate it, stick the head on a spike and put it on display at the roundabout. Or they will put the body on the road and force cars to run it over until nothing is left. The body will become one with the ground. Only the clothes will be left.”
The pair long to flee Raqqa, but had to stay back to help a friend carry out an “at home” abortion for a woman who could face death by stoning, if she is caught having a child out of wedlock.
With the increase in airstrikes and shrinking territory in the Islamic State, the women report some ISIS members are experiencing buyer’s remorse and planning exit strategies. Some Jihadis have set up temporary checkpoints, confiscating civilian ID cards that will allow them to eventually flee the Islamic State and return home via Turkey.