Money, cars, and guns: About IS recruiting

August 5, 2014

Khoulou al-Amery  Al-Hayat

The people of the city Jurf Al-Sakhar, in the Babil governorate of Iraq, know little about the young Mohammed Marzouk.

All they know is that despite barely being able to complete his university education and having only slim chances to get a job because of his bad grades, he showed up one day driving a luxury car that was beyond the reach of those much wealthier than him.

The young twenty-something failed to secure himself a government job after graduation, as he once wished. However, he managed to land a job with IS (Islamic State), that came with a good salary, a weapon, and a luxury car. After joining the group he took up the responsibility of recruiting young people in the region where he lives.

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Many of the young men in Marzouk’s area see working with IS as an opportunity to appear powerful and be respected by the residents who support this extremist group. IS invaded the city in order to establish a corridor in the south leading to the capital Baghdad. The town of Jurf Al-Sakhar is also linked to Anbar province, which was seized by IS a few months ago.

Battles are taking place almost daily in the area, resulting in the destruction of homes and infrastructure. Empty houses are often booby-trapped by IS fighters who wait for the army to enter before detonating them, and they have managed to kill many young Iraqi soldiers. However, the soldiers are no longer falling for this trick as they avoid entering empty houses and if they do, they make sure to exit them swiftly.

The city continues to suffer ongoing clashes between both sides, each controlling different parts.

Marzouk persuaded not only young people in Jurf Al-Sakhar to work with IS, but also some of his former classmates in al-Haswah and Latifiya, two small cities located in the so-called area of north Babil. This area is now known as the “Triangle of Death” following the sectarian battles that took place there in 2006 and 2007.

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Since the proclamation of the Islamic State, the group has increased its operations in the Sunni-majority region of Mosul and it started to attract many young people to its ranks in Mosul and elsewhere. IS managed to lure young unemployed men just as many other militias before have.

IS has been tempting young people into joining its ranks by offering them money, power, and the chance to take revenge on hated people of their region, whether Sunnis or Shiites, wether from another neighborhood or an opposing militia.

Marzouk has been very present in the city lately, always followed by young people wishing for a chance to join IS. He has advanced from a deprived young man to an admired person with prestige, money, and the power to select young applicants for IS at his whim.

Marzouk is not aware that the time of sectarian and extremist militias has one day come to an end, if Iraq society wants to survive. He is unconcerned, but the people in his town will never forget who caused the death of so many innocent humans merely because of their religion or of personal rivalries.

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