ISIS Deported an Old Widow From Fallujah for Wanting to Walk Alone

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In this Sunday, July, 20, 2014 photos, Islamic militant and tribal fighters hold a black flag used by the al-Qaeda during a patrol in al-Karma town, east of Fallujah, Iraq. Sunni militants seized control of the Anbar city of Fallujah, and parts of Ramadi in January. The government has since reasserted its control of Ramadi, but Fallujah remains in insurgent hands.
Photo: AP/Corbis

Last week, Intelligencer published a story on life inside the media “black hole” of Fallujah based on correspondence with Zainab, a twentysomething resident of the city. Her conservative Sunni religious views made her more of a supporter of ISIS than an opponent: Zainab told Intelligencer that the militants’ rule meant more certainty than American occupation, and that what she really feared was the Shia-controlled Iraqi army taking over the city. On Monday, Reuters published another account of life inside the city based on interviews with recent visitors.

The story shows that Fallujah has settled into more or less a normal under militant control. “Witnesses said the militants now travel in ordinary vehicles and motorcycles instead of pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns,” the writers wrote. If fighters fear an attack by Iraqi forces, they’re certainly not showing it. Like in other cities under ISIS rule, the terrorist group has set up some social services, like street maintenance. Three additional takeaways from Reuters, to round out what it’s like to live in the occupied city:

ISIS provides free supplies to people who can produce materials to help in battle. For instance, Reuters cites a tailor who gets free power as long as he churns out suicide vests for the militants. (The man knows he may one day be punished by Iraqi forces for his role, but “they should know that I am doing this for the sake of my family,” he says.)

Women need a male escort to walk outside, like in other territories under ISIS control. According to visitors who had recently been to Fallujah, an older widow was kicked out of the city when she asked a court for permission to walk independently rather than becoming a burden on others.

Not everyone in Fallujah is as fond of ISIS rule as Zainab is. In fact, it seems like many aren’t fond of the crackdown on victimless behaviors like smoking water pipes. “At this point I am resigned to the fact that we should carry arms and fight Islamic State in Falluja or we will end up as their slaves,” said a man who had been caught smoking shisha by the militants.

Not Everyone in Fallujah Is Thrilled About ISIS