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Journalists go behind ISIL lines

File this under the department of things that happened once and will likely never happen again. A father-and-son team of German journalists managed to convince the Islamic State (or ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever you prefer) to take them on a tour of their capital city, Raqqa, and their biggest prize, Mosul.

A book written about the experience–My Journey into the Heart of Terror: Ten Days in the Islamic State by Jürgen Todenhöfer–is due to be published later this month.

ISIS fighters in a truck convoy, pictured on a militant website.
Public Domain

Remember, these tour guides are the same people who tend to behead journalists, so the endeavour meant some very considerable risk. Todenhöfer’s actual guide for the trip was an obese German convert to Islam named Abu Qatadah and his driver was quite likely the Islamic State’s most notorious executioner, Jihadi John (who is now said to be dead).

In any case, what they learned was pretty interesting. Here are some of the facts they report:

  • Theft is a very bad idea. If you steal anything more expensive than a gram of gold, which is worth about $51, then the authorities will cut off your hand.
  • It turns out that life for Christians isn’t all that bad. I mean, for the ones who manage to stay alive. Christians in the Islamic State must pay a jizya, or protection tax, of between $375 to $750 per year. While some poor Muslims living there pay a zakat, or religious tax, may pay less than the protection tax, rich ones will pay more.
  • If you happen to belong to other groups, your fate is not so kind. Yazidi women are sold as slaves and they go for around $1,900. Roughly the same price as a good used AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle.

To read a longer, action-packed excerpt from the book, and see many interesting pictures, go here.

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