By: Anne Speckhard
Striking it Rich in the Caliphate features Syrian Abu Said, a defected ISIS commander. Abu Said was interviewed in November of 2015, in Southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla. The video was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and ICSVE staff.
When the Syrian uprising occurred, Abu Said didn’t join the demonstrations but was activated into service for the Free Syrian Army in response to the demonstrators being fired upon by Bashar al Assad’s forces. Recalling the first months of freedom in 2012, Abu Said states, “I can’t describe it—the freedoms, the freedom of expression, everything free like we never even dreamed of, for example a woman who supported the Free Syrian Army can say it aloud.” These freedoms however, did not last as Islamic State came in 2013 and began a campaign of assassinations inside the Free Syrian Army.
After Abu Said’s area was overrun by ISIS, he and others made “repentance” and joined ISIS, mistakenly believing they would deliver governance run by Islamic ideals.
In this video, Abu Said details how ISIS established a Ministry of Archeology to deal with people digging up and selling Syrian artifacts. According to Abu Said, ISIS began allowing trade in ancient artifacts, paying a 25 percent commission for the value of findings and handling the illicit sales as well via Turkey and Lebanon. Those who dug up artifacts or tried to trade in them without ISIS approval were accused of worshiping idols and severely punished. Abu Said states that ISIS profited from the sale of rare artifacts, sex slaves, oil sold to the Assad regime, and by taxing, fining and stealing from locals. Yet local Syrians did not benefit.
Abu Said states, “I’m Muslim and proud of Islam. I’m proud of my Prophet, but ISIS deformed Islam and frightened people of Islam.” He continues noting that, “locals started noticing that [with all their revenues] ISIS members are living in luxury while the locals are living in hell.”
What do you feel watching this video?
Do you believe that Abu Said is telling the truth about his experiences in ISIS?
What do you think of ISIS dealing in ancient artifacts?
Do you believe ISIS members lived in luxury while local Syrians suffered? If so what do you think of that?
Did Islamic State bring freedom to Syrians?
What do you think of Abu Said’s claim that ISIS had monetary dealings with the Assad regime?
Transcript of Striking it Rich in the Caliphate video:
Striking It Rich in the Caliphate[ISIS] established a Ministry of Archeology, because after the chaos in Syria,
people started digging up artifacts, finding some and selling them.
So if [ISIS] catches you digging and sees you’ve found a big artifact that is made of rock and is worthless,
they will bring you and gather people and break the statue.[They will] say these are false idols that you’re worshipping.
Former ISIS Commander
But if you get authorization from the Ministry, you get a paper and then you can dig
and they will pay you 25 percent of the value of your findings.
They will take care of the sale.
You don’t have to worry about selling.
You bring it to them and they’ll sell it.
They have traders outside the country throughout Turkey and Lebanon.
They distribute the artifacts through these countries.
They have their ways.
You just have to find these artifacts but with their knowledge and their permits.
Because if they find out you have an artifact that you dug up without their knowledge,
well, you’ll be in trouble—so much trouble. You could even be killed.
Abu Said states that ISIS profited from the sale of rare artifacts, sex slaves,
oil sold to the Assad regime, and by taxing, fining and stealing from locals.
Yet local Syrians did not benefit.
I’m Muslim and proud of Islam. I’m proud of my Prophet.
ISIS deformed Islam and frightened people of Islam.
Because of that, locals started noticing that [with all their revenues]
ISIS members are living in luxury while the locals are living in hell.
The Truth Behind the Islamic State
Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, www.ICSVE.org
See more at www.theRealJihad.org
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=101) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhard: and on the ICSVE website