These are obscene images. They depict two men thrown from the roof of a building as a crowd watches them fall to their deaths, and they purport to show the Islamic State (or ISIS) carrying out public executions before an audience in Iraq’s Nineveh province.
The two victims’ alleged crimes? They are believed to be gay. In another photo, woman accused of being an adulterer is stoned to death, and two men charged with thievery are bound to crucifixes. Victims are commonly crucified, sometimes after they have been killed, in ISIS public executions.
In these photos, ISIS members in black facemasks appear to shoot the crucified men from behind at point blank range as an audience of who appear to be local Iraqis looks on.
ISIS-affiliated social media feeds began spreading the images Thursday. Those accounts linked to a justpasteit.com file attributed to the “Information Office of the mandate of Nineveh,” an apparent propaganda arm tied to Islamic state press releases. The public executions appear to have taken place in Mosul, the capital of the Islamic State and Iraq’s second largest city sits in Nineveh province.
In areas of Iraq and Syria where ISIS has taken over, public executions are common. They have been a staple of the group’s puritanical interpretation of Islamic law since before it took control of Mosul and declared itself the Calpihate, or Islamic State.
In “Profiling the Islamic State” Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center writes about ISIS’ version of Islamic governance:
“The implementation of a strict form of sharia law is clearly central to IS’s governance,” he writes. “This includes imposing the hudud (fixed Islamic punishments for serious crimes); enforcing attendance of the five daily prayers; banning drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; controlling personal appearance, including clothing; forbidding gambling, non-Islamic music, and gender mixing; and ordering the destruction of religious shrines, among other rules.” (PDF)
Public executions in ISIS controlled areas enforce the group’s version of Sharia Law and serve to terrorize locals into strict obedience. Elsewhere, ISIS has used the tactic to intimidate its rivals.
Death is shown in high resolution—the killing carefully composed inside the frame. These images belong to a deliberate social media and information strategy. Like all good Internet propaganda the images are made to be readily “shareable” and appear to have been released with the intent that they travel to a broader audience. It worked. Obscene and merciless, it’s a reflection of the state of life under ISIS rule.