The Islamic State now governs its caliphate from the north central Syrian city of Raqqa, which was once a relatively westernized agricultural hub. As the State's power base, Raqqa is where it imposes its version of Sharia law throughout large swaths of Iraq and Syria. The “Hisbah” are the new Sharia police. In the latest episode of The Islamic State, VICE News joins them on their daily patrols during Ramadan, and witnesses how they check on shops and scrutinize produce, while at the same time ensuring their strict rules on women’s appearances are adhered to.
We are also taken to an Islamic State prison and speak with inmates accused of abusing drugs and selling alcohol. There we learn firsthand of the prisoners’ punishments, and how they have since “rediscovered” their devotion to the Islamic faith since their incarceration — but are yet to be granted permission to declare their allegiance to the caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
As the soldiers of the Islamic State continue in their effort to build up institutions in the north central Syrian city of Raqqa, the Hisbah, or religious police, are tasked with enforcing a particularly harsh form of Sharia law.
In part 4 of The Islamic State, VICE News visits the Sharia courts where those accused of infractions are sentenced to harsh penalties, including death by crucifixion. But the courts don’t just handle crime. Citizens can bring all manners of complaints, including family disputes, and see the Islamic State’s form of justice doled out.
On August 8, nearly three years after the United States pulled out of Iraq, President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes to commence on Islamic State positions in northern Iraq, as the group’s fighters advanced towards the Kurdish capital of Erbil. For six weeks prior to the strikes the Islamic State made stunning gains within Iraq, effectively dismantling the border with Syria and defeating the Iraqi army with little in the way to stop them.
In the final installment of VICE News’ unprecedented look inside the Islamic State, reporter Medyan Dairieh journeys 200 miles from the the group’s power base in the Syrian city of Raqqa to the border with Iraq. There, after defeating the Iraqi army manning the checkpoint, Islamic State fighters work further to bulldoze the border.
As they clear apart a barrier that divided Iraq and Syria, Islamic State fighters declare an end of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a nearly 100-year-old pact between France and Britain that divided up the Middle East. For now, that area between Iraq and Syria is part of a new territory: the Islamic State.