Inside Islamic State group's rule: Creating a nation of fear

The Current State of ISIL in Iraq

ESKI MOSUL, Iraq (AP) -- When the Islamic State fighters burst into the Iraqi village of Eski Mosul, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim knew his wife was in trouble.

Buthaina Ibrahim was an outspoken human rights advocate who had once run for the provincial council in Mosul. The IS fighters demanded she apply for a "repentance card." Under the rule of the extremist group, all former police officers, soldiers and people whose activities are deemed "heretical" must sign the card and carry it with them at all times.

"She said she'd never stoop so low," her husband said.

Buthaina Ibrahim was an outlier in her defiance of the Islamic State. It would cost her dearly.

The "caliphate," declared a year ago, demands obedience. Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the IS, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, extending its control into every corner of life to enforce its own radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

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Inside Islamic State group's rule: Creating a nation of fear
An Iraqi government forces member sits in the back of a vehicle in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to patrol the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces pose for a picture at a checkpoint in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi government forces member keeps position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces guard the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces walk next to a trench in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi families, who fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, talk to journalists at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi boy, whose family fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, poses inside a tent at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces stand guard as residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, wait to cross Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer as an Iraqi army soldier passes water them after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi kid cries as he and thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 19: Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, carry their belongings with a trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 17: Iraqi Army members take security measures as thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.(Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Iraqi interior ministry's anti-terrorism forces flashes the V-sign as he stands guard on a vehicle outside the Habaniyah military base, near Anbar province's capital Ramadi, on May 8, 2015. More than 1,000 Sunni fighters from Anbar joined Iraq's Popular Mobilisation force on May 8, 2015 as part of government efforts to make the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group a cross-sectarian drive. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters who supports the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group, hold a black Islamist flag allegedly belonging to IS militants in the village of Fadhiliyah, which pro-government forces retook from IS control the previous month, on the road leading to Fallujah, in Iraq's flashpoint Anbar province, southwest of Baghdad, on February 24, 2015. The government forces lost control of parts of Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah at the beginning of 2015 to anti-government fighters. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Islamic State car bomb explodes at the gate of a government building near the provincial governor's compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, during heavy fighting that saw most of the city fall to the militants. (Stringer/McClatchy DC/TNS via Getty Images)
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The Islamic State is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend.

There is no safe way out. People vanish -- their disappearance sometimes explained by an uninformative death certificate, or worse, a video of their beheading.

"People hate them, but they've despaired, and they don't see anyone supporting them if they rise up," said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family, which still lives under IS rule. "People feel that nobody is with them."

The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians describing life under the group's rule. One AP team travelled to Eski Mosul, a village on a bend in the Tigris River north of Mosul where residents emerged from nearly seven months under IS rule after Kurdish fighters drove the extremists out in January. IS forces remain dug in only a few miles away, so close that smoke is visible from fighting on the front lines.

Inside The Caliphate Nation Of Fear

Another AP team travelled to the Turkish border cities of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, refuges for Syrians who have fled IS territory.

The picture they paint suggests the Islamic State's "caliphate" has evolved into an entrenched pseudo-state, based on a bureaucracy of terror. Interviewees provided AP with some documents produced by the IS ruling machine -- repentance cards, lists inventorying weapons held by local fighters, leaflets detailing rules of women's dress, detailed forms for applying for permission to travel outside IS territory. All emblazoned with the IS black banner and logo "Caliphate in the path of the prophet."

Adnan described the transformation that the Syrian city of Raqqa underwent after the Islamic State took it over in January 2014. At the time, he fled, but after a few months of missing his family, the 28-year-old returned to see if he could endure life under the extremists. He lasted for almost a year in the city, now the IS de facto capital. He spoke to AP in the Turkish border town of Gaziantep.

The once colorful, cosmopolitan Syrian provincial capital has been transformed, he said. Now, women covered head to toe in black scurried quickly to markets before rushing home. Families often didn't leave home to avoid any contact with the "Hisba" committees, the dreaded enforcers of the innumerable IS regulations.

IS fighters turned a soccer stadium into a prison and interrogation center, known as "Point 11." The city's central square was referred to by residents as "Jaheem" Square -- Hell Square, an execution site where Adnan said he saw the corpses of three men left dangling for days as a warning.

Armed members of the Hisba patrolled the streets, cruising in SUVs and wearing Afghan-style baggy pants and long shirts. They sniffed people for the odor of cigarettes, and chastised women they considered improperly covered or men who wore Western clothes or hair styles. Adnan said he once was dealt 10 lashes for playing music in his car.

In this world, the outspoken Buthaina Ibrahim was clearly in danger. The sheikh tried to save his wife, sending her away to safety, but she soon returned, missing their three daughters and two sons, he said. In early October, the militants surrounded the house and dragged her away.

Not long after, Ibrahim received the death certificate. A simple sheet of paper from an "Islamic court" with a judge's signature, it said only that Buthaina's death was verified, nothing more. He has no idea where her body is.

Delivery from IS came to Eski Mosul at the hands of Kurdish fighters. Amid the joy over liberation, many residents discarded documents from the Islamic State.

But Ibrahim is keeping the death certificate as a connection to his wife, "because it has her name on it."

A former soldier in the village, Salim Ahmed, said he is keeping his repentance card. IS might be gone, but the fear it instilled in him is not.

"We live very close to their front line," he said. "One day, they might come back and ask me for my repentance card again."

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