Insight – Islamic State turns radical Islam on Syria Muslims

 

Islamic State fighters in Syria. Photo credit: voanews.com

(Reuters) – As Islamic State militants advanced in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor last month, those who had held out against them faced a simple choice: beg for mercy or face certain death.

 

Their options were laid out in stark religious terms by the militant Islamists who are trying to carve out their own state in Syria and Iraq. Defeated fighters were required to “atone” or die, a choice set out in Islamic terms and implying that resisting Islamic State rule amounted to a sin against God.

 

“I surrendered my weapons,” said a rebel fighter who capitulated to Islamic State on July 2 and has been living in fear for his life ever since. He still believes Islamic State could execute him at any moment. “Everyone is subject to this. Everyone is afraid,” he said, speaking via internet link.

 

In cementing its control over the oil-producing province of Deir al-Zor, Islamic State has unleashed one of its bloodiest waves of repression to date, employing mass executions, threats and house demolitions as the attention of Western states has focussed on rolling back the group in neighbouring Iraq.

 

While some have been granted a pardon on Islamic State’s terms that require complete allegiance, others have been shown no mercy. One tribe in particular has been singled out for persecution.

 

Hundreds of members of the Sheitaat clan have been executed after their tribe refused to submit to Islamic State. The entire tribe have been deemed “hostile apostates” by the group, an offshoot of al Qaeda that has declared a “caliphate” in the territory it holds.

 

Their killings are a reminder, say locals, that many of Islamic State’s victims are not minority Shi’ites, Yazidis or Christians, but Sunnis who – nominally at least – follow the same denomination of Islam.

 

As Islamic State’s advances in Iraq have sent minorities fleeing for fear of execution or forced conversion to Islam, the group’s radical interpretation of the religion has, in the case of the Sheitaat, laid grounds for mass persecution of Sunnis.

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