‘I am a member of ISIS’: 2 prisoners in Mosul explain why they joined the jihadists
The prisoners were marched from their makeshift jail down the street to a house that Mosul’s police have turned into a temporary detachment.
They were led into what used to be a family’s living room, with the green curtains drawn shut.
Officers brought the men, separately, to speak to CBC News, in what is a rare opportunity to gain insight into why Iraqis joined the world’s most notorious militant group. The prisoners were blindfolded to prevent them from identifying their guards.
“My name is Juma Ibrahim,” said one of the men, his head bowed and eyes covered by a thin piece of white cloth. His hair had recently been shaved off. “I am a member of ISIS.”
On a recent trip to Mosul, where the battle against the self-proclaimed Islamic State continues, CBC News was given access to two young Iraqi men who police say were ISIS members. Both were awaiting transfer to a larger detention facility for militants south of the city. Neither had been charged.
The prisoners were being held in east Mosul, which was liberated by Iraqi security forces in January. Across the Tigris River, the military operation to defeat ISIS in the western side of the city continues.
The makeshift jail consisted of a few small rooms, guarded by officers, in another house on the same block. A brief look inside one room saw at least seven men, most kneeling on the cramped floor. The room reeked of feces and body odour.
Both Ibrahim and the first detainee we met, Qutaiba Salem, admitted they joined ISIS, but both denied carrying out acts of violence against residents of Mosul.
“I only joined them for money to buy medicine for my mother,” said Salem, 25, who said he was an electrician living in the western Mosul neighbourhood of Wadi al-Hajar before ISIS stormed the city in June 2014.
Ibrahim, who said he’d been working in construction prior to the arrival of the jihadist group, made a similar claim.
“My sister, she has cancer. And I didn’t have money,” he said. “I didn’t have treatment. I visited [ISIS] and I asked them for treatment. They said, ‘We don’t give you treatment unless you join us.”