Iraqi and allied forces are currently engaged in fighting in Mosul, Iraq to take back the northern city from ISIS control. One way in which the underground group found success in circulating its material discreetly within Raqqa was by creating a magazine with the same cover as the ISIS propaganda magazine, which also provided cover for anyone reading it in public, he said.
WASHINGTON –Abdalaziz Alhamza, the co-founder of a group working to expose the terror tactics of the so-called Islamic State in its de facto capital in Syria, said Monday his group has dealt with many threats as it struggles to counter extremist propaganda in Raqqa.
His organization, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, uses social media and smuggled photos and videos to show what life is like in Raqqa, Syria under ISIS control.
“We decided to make something to draw the attention of the international media and international community,” said Alhamza at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. “We wanted to show that Raqqa is the capital of the resistance.”
Alhamza wants the United States under its next president to engage in a more aggressive, interventionist U.S. foreign policy. President Barack Obama, he said, hasn’t earned his Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to him in 2009.
Within one month of its founding in 2014, ISIS declared that anyone who was caught supporting the organization would be arrested and executed, Alhamza said. Two members of his group have been killed since then, including one who was publically executed after ISIS militants found a laptop with the group’s logo in some files.
The group, which originally communicated through Facebook messenger, has overhauled communication and security training for new members.
One organization member, while working abroad from outside Syria, was contacted by ISIS with the news that his father and four of his friends were arrested and would be executed unless he revealed members of the group inside Raqqa, Alhamza said. When he refused, ISIS sent him a “Hollywood video” of their execution.
“I was with my colleague when the video was released,” said Alhamza who would not go into further detail. “That pushed us to do more and more.”
Painting a bleak picture of life in Raqqa, Alhamza said ISIS has banned coffee shops and “anything to do with fun.” All regular schools have been closed and replaced with institutions that teach ISIS ideology, while recruiters entice children to join the militant group with gifts and money, he said.
ISIS’s policy that women must be completely covered and escorted by men in public has been an asset for his group in an unexpected way, Alhamza said, The restriction combined with ISIS’s ban on touching women in public makes concealing a camera easy.