- Raqqa’s al-Khansa brigade uses the bear trap-like device to torture women
- ‘Batol’ was arrested in the city centre because her veil was see-through
- Dozens of Western radicals are believed to have joined al-Khansa brigade
The al-Khansa brigade, the female religious police in Raqqa, the insurgency’s de facto capital in Syria, is said to use the bear trap-like device to punish women who defy their strict laws.
Opposition media group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently claim that in one case it was used on a 24-year-old woman who was arrested while breastfeeding her baby in the city centre.
The woman, given the name Batol to conceal her true identity, was quoted as saying: ‘I was in the market buying a few items when Khansa battalion came and arrested me on the grounds that the niqab [Islamic face covering] which I was wearing does not meet Sharia requirement because it was transparent[.]
‘[T]hey took me to the “Hesba” headquarters in the city, and escorted me to the torture chamber, then they asked me to choose between a whip or a “biter”[.]
‘I did not know what a “biter” was and I thought it is a reduced sentence, I was afraid of whipping, so I choose the “biter”, then they brought a sharp object that has a a lot of teeth and held me, placing it on my chest and pressing it strongly, I screamed from pain and I was badly injured. They later took me to the hospital.
‘I felt then that my femininity has been destroyed completely, we no longer afford to live this way, I was not the only one that was tortured with this instrument, there were a lot of women in the headquarters and their situation was tragic.’
Raqqa’s al-Khansa brigade has achieved notoriety in recent months after dozens of British women who have travelled to join the Islamic State’s insurgency boasted of joining the police unit.
They used social media to brag about doling out savage beatings, punishment lashings, ordering executions and managing brothels where thousands of Yazidi sex slaves are believed to be imprisoned and raped daily.
Britons including privately-educated Glaswegian Aqsa Mahmood, 20, and Lewisham-born Khadijah Dare, 22, are understood to have joined, helping to patrol Raqqa with guns and daggers hidden beneath their robes.
The group operates as an ultra-oppressive police force monitoring the behaviour of females in Raqqa – meting out brutal punishments to anyone wearing shoes that aren’t black, or those wearing veils made from the wrong material.
While Batol’s story could not be verified, it does fit with other stories of the behaviour of al-Khansa extremists, who are among the Islamic State’s most feared members in the areas the insurgency controls.
In September Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a member of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, told VICE News: ‘The most difficult thing for us, is the al-Khansa Brigade…
‘I don’t know who’s from al-Khansa and who isn’t. So when I get out my cell phone and I am taking photos of the city I don’t know if any of them are looking at me or not.’
‘If you are taking photos and one of the women from al-Khansa is looking at you, they will catch you immediately, and you’ll be executed immediately. This is a big problem for us,’ he added.
Mr Raqqawi described how the majority of women in al-Khansa are foreigners ‘from the UK, from the U.S, Dutch, Chechen.’
He added that even though many of them can only speak a few words of Arabic, their reputation is such that men and women alike fear their presence.
A man also told activists that he was flogged and thrown in a cell for nothing more than smoking a cigarette, another vice now banned under the Islamic State’s hardline regime.
Sami, 25, was quoted as saying: ‘ISIS’s Hesba bureau arrested me on charges of smoking and they took me to their headquarters and then put me to the torture chamber[.]
‘[T]he room floor was full of blood, and then they flogged me 40 times and threw me in a cell, there were a lot of detainees, when I looked at them I saw death in their eyes and their situation was pitiful[.]
‘[D]uring the three nights I spent at the headquarters, I heard the screams of women and men who ISIS was torturing.
‘[T]o hear the screams of the people of my city when they are being tortured at the hands of strangers is a torture of another type, which has destroyed my dignity.
‘It seems that this city is no longer ours, and we have become strangers here, then I began to seriously consider leaving it.’