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A Scholar In The Islamic State Caliphate

A Scholar in the Islamic State Caliphate

Anne Speckhard & Ardian Shajkovci

A Scholar in the Islamic State Caliphate is the 68th counter narrative video in the ICSVE Breaking the ISIS Brand series. This video features 22-year-old Abu Valid, a Syrian former ISIS soldier. Abu Valid was interviewed in December 2015 in southern Turkey by Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla. The video was produced and edited by Zack Baddorf and ICSVE staff.

This video begins with Abu Valid telling how he was assigned to the ISIS hisbah, i.e. morality police of ISIS, and was ordered by Abdulrahman, an Iraqi ISIS leader, to raid an estate housing prostitutes and bring to him whoever he finds there. Abu Valid recalls, “He asked me to go to a house where there are many people, mostly women. He said, the house is suspicious, perhaps a house of prostitution [and] we should raid the house. We shouldn’t even knock at the door, just storm in. He told me, ‘Even if you find a 100-year-old guy, you have to bring him to me. Whether children or women, just get them here.’ 

Abu Valid carries out the order, but to his surprise, gets punished afterward by being sent to the frontlines in Iraq. He is punished  for following orders and bringing in foreign fighters and women of ill-repute. He recounts, “We prepared our cars to go raid the place. It actually was a brothel. There were three women and five [Tunisian foreign fighters] there. There was Syrians, too. We took them back to the hisbah. Abdulrahman [the Iraqi ISIS leader] was surprised by those people, who he knew very well. He threw us in jail with them. There were masked people there. They separated us. They decided to deport us that night to Iraq [to die at the frontlines]. We didn’t do anything wrong. [We were] 100 percent certain that Abdulrahman, [the ISIS leader], knew those foreign fighters personally or he had a purpose in taking the women. [Only] Allah knows.”

Indeed, sending those who knew too much or were causing problems, to the frontlines, particularly in Iraq, was a common practice of ISIS leaders. This was their way of ridding themselves of  problematic persons.

 Abu Valid recounts another disturbing incident. “[Another time,] they brought a man from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The excuse was that he was a murtad [apostate]. His reputation is that he is religious, a scholar. He knows about religion.  They kept him at the hisbah prison. We heard him many times screaming at night,” he describes the chilling ordeal. ISIS cadres were well-known for torturing their prisoners and this was no exception. “We tortured him, honestly. We all had blood on our hands,” Abu Valid admits, although he tried to avoid doing so. “I only came in [to his cell] once. When you punish someone, they used to watch you do it. I didn’t know what was his crime, how to evaluate if he deserves it or not. He turned out to be an Islamic judge and he talked to them from a religious point of view. So, they figured out that he was a scholar,” Abu Valid recounts.  

This was threatening to the ISIS leaders, as Abu Valid explains, “He was enlightening people [about ISIS’ un-Islamic behaviors].” But as Abu Valid states, “You listen to [ISIS] or you die. They took this man. His name was Abu Turab. They cut his tongue off. They realized that his [tongue] might be more dangerous than weapons or even suppressed weapons. This [religious scholar] was more dangerous than money to them, than anything. We took him to a region where one of the locals shot him in his head, three to four shots.”

Abu Valid, like most defectors, left ISIS because of their un-Islamic practices, corruption and extreme brutality. Abu Valid, who defected from the group by escaping to southern Turkey, concludes on this video clip, “ISIS is not righteous. It doesn’t have anything to do with Islam.”

Discussion Questions: 

What do you feel watching this video?

Do you believe that Abu Valid is telling the truth about his experiences inside ISIS?

Why do you think the Iraqi ISIS leader punished Abu Valid?

Do you believe Abu Valid’s story that there was a house of prostitution operating under ISIS rule? If so, does it surprise you?

Did you know that free thinking and heated debates about the meaning and correct applications of scriptures was highly valued over the centuries by traditional Islamic leaders, but was not by groups like al Qaeda and ISIS?

Do you believe that this Islamic scholar should have been silenced?

Islamic Scriptures Related to this Video:

Islam, contrary to what ISIS preaches and lives by, is not a religion of compulsion. According to Islamic teachings, everyone is free to choose his religion and forcing others to adopt your version or understanding of religion is totally against Islam. As Allah says in the Quran: “There is no compulsion in religion. Righteousness is now distinct from error. He who disbelieves in the idol and believes in Allah has grasped the firmest tie that will never break. Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” Surah al-Baqarah (the cow), Ayah No. 256.

Allah also said in the Quran, ordering the Prophet (PBUH): “Say: ‘O unbelievers, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. Nor am I worshiping what you have worshipped, neither will you worship what I worship. To you your religion, and to me my religion.” Surah al-Kafiroon (the unbelievers), Ayah No. 1-6.

Transcript of A Scholar in the Islamic State Caliphate video:

A Scholar in the Islamic State Caliphate

I joined [an ISIS leader] for a while, at the hisbah [morality police of ISIS].

He asked me to go to a house where there are many people, mostly women.

He said the house is suspicious, perhaps a house of prostitution.

[He said] we should raid the house.

We shouldn’t even knock at the door, just storm in.

He told me, ‘Even if you find a 100-year-old guy, you have to bring him to me.

Whether children or women, just get them here.’ 

ABU VALID

Former ISIS Soldier

22-year-old Syrian

We prepared our cars to go raid the place. 

It actually was a brothel.

There were three women and five [Tunisian foreign fighters] there. There was Syrians, too.

We took them back to the hisbah.

Abdulrahman [the Iraqi ISIS leader] was surprised by those people, who he knew very well. 

He threw us in jail with them. There were masked people there. They separated us.

They decided to deport us that night to Iraq [to die at the frontlines].

We didn’t do anything wrong.

[We were] 100 percent certain that Abdulrahman, [the ISIS leader], knew those foreign fighters personally or he had a purpose in taking the women. [Only] Allah knows.

[Another time,] they brought a man from the Free Syrian Army.

The excuse was that he was a murtad [apostate].

His reputation is that he is religious, a scholar. He knows about religion. 

They kept him at the hisbah prison. We heard him many times screaming at night.

We tortured him, honestly. We all had blood on our hands. 

I only came in [to his cell] once. When you punish someone, they used to watch you do it.

I didn’t know what was his crime, how to evaluate if he deserves it or not.

He turned out to be an Islamic judge and he talked to them from a religious point of view.

So they figured out that he was a scholar.

He was enlightening people [about ISIS’s un-Islamic behaviors].

You listen to [ISIS] or you die.

They took this man. His name was Abu Turab. They cut his tongue off.

They realized that his [tongue] might be more dangerous

than weapons or even suppressed weapons.

This [religious scholar] was more dangerous than money to them, than anything.

We took him to a region where one of the locals shot him in his head,

 three to four shots.

ISIS is not righteous.

It doesn’t have anything to do with Islam.

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

About the authors:

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 https://www.icsve.org Follow @AnneSpeckhard

Ardian Shajkovci, Ph.D., is the Director of Research and a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). He has been collecting interviews with ISIS defectors and studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism as well as 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. He has also been studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and how to rehabilitate them. He has conducted fieldwork in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, mostly recently in Jordan and Iraq. He has presented at professional conferences and published on the topic of radicalization and terrorism. He holds a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on Homeland Security Policy, from Walden University. He obtained his M.A. degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University and a B.A. degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Dominican University. He is also an adjunct professor teaching counterterrorism and CVE courses at Nichols College. 

Anne Speckhard

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and has also taught the Psychology of Terrorism for the Security Studies Department in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Dr. Speckhard has been working in the field of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1980’s and has extensive experience working in Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

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