The slow-motion destruction of Syria has produced as much cynicism as it has heartache, but let no one ever again ask, “Where are all the good guys?” Two of them were apparently just shot by ISIS.
Bashir Abduladhim al-Saado and Faisal Hussain al-Habib, 20 and 21, are shown on video in orange jumpsuits—by now a trademark symbol of all ISIS victims. They are forced to confess to spying on the jihadis’ activities in northern Syria before being murdered on camera.
The authenticity of the video, called “They Are the Enemy, Beware of Them,” has yet to be independently confirmed, but a source affiliated with Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a prominent anti-ISIS grassroots organization, has told The Daily Beast that neither al-Saado or al-Habibi worked for his group, although both were from Raqqa. Since April 2014, RBSS and a separate activist network called Eye on the Homeland have risked everything to provide the world of glimpse inside the first provincial capital in the Middle East to fall to the terror army.
In the video, a masked jihadi is shown flipping through a stack of papers, purportedly copies of documents smuggled out by al-Saado and al-Habib. They say a neighbor, Hamoud al-Mousa, who is a founding member of RBSS, asked them to make the copies. Al-Mousa evidently provided the activists with a camera watch and pair of glasses capable of snapping photographs
“I took photos in [the] Rumaila, Tal Abyad, al-Wadi, streets, main and local streets, panorama, ISIS members—anybody who comes in front of it, any street that has a base for ISIS,” al-Saado says, referring to towns in Syria that were formerly or are currently held by ISIS. “[Al-Mousa] also asked me to go to Deir ez-Zor to take photos of oil fields and how they extract oil and fill the vehicles.”
Al-Saado adds that al-Mousa paid $400 for photograph evidence of ISIS activities, which he would encrypt and then dispatch one of the young activists to take to Turkey. Al-Saado was apparently captured by ISIS in his home, while al-Habib claimed that security officials from the organization came to him as he was encrypting the latest material.
Al-Saado and al-Habib are then tied to wooden posts and shot through the head with pistols at point-blank range by two ISIS gunmen. The camera lingers on their corpses and even captures the sound of blood dripping from their head wounds onto their jumpsuits. The video ends, ominously, with a third man who says, “My name is Mohammed al-Mousa,” in what appears a grotesque “teaser” for a forthcoming execution video. The RBSS source told The Daily Beast that the speaker is Hamoud al-Mousa’s father, whom ISIS did indeed capture three months ago.
“A media activist documents the violations committed by the group as much as he can with whatever equipment or tools he has,” said another Syrian activist who oversees an anti-ISIS organization in Deir ez-Zor. “Despite ISIS’s monitoring—by checking cellphones at checkpoints, sudden raids into Internet cafes, arbitrary arrests—media activists working to document violations have become much savvier about security, which helps them to stay safe.”
In recent days, particularly since ISIS’s loss of crucial towns to Kurdish and Arab paramilitaries, dozens of young men accused of producing or disseminating samizdat material showing life under caliphate rule have been arrested. These military defeats have coincided with an uptick in lethal propaganda.
“They Are the Enemy, Beware of Them” follows a separate ISIS video released just a day ago showing the summary execution of 25 Syrian army soldiers captured in the ancient city of Palmyra last month. They’re also shot through the head in military-style executions, albeit while dressed in their army fatigues and after some of them are shown torturing inmates of the Assad regime’s notorious Tadmur prison. ISIS then blows up the prison.
Originally 17 in number, the membership of RBSS dwindled to 12 after one of the NGO’s founding members, Motaz, was captured by ISIS and executed in a public square by being thrown off a high building.
Several weeks ago, one of the group’s activists, Abu Ward al-Raqqawi, told The Daily Beast: “I can’t imagine it. [ISIS did] this in a crowded area and they asked the people to come to see what would happen. The people who are watching the execution are children—so that the children will be terrorists in the future. They will be killers. ISIS is trying to brainwash the children.”
Abu Ward said the jihadis drove around Raqqa in cars “trying to catch anyone who did anything wrong, such as smoking in the street. Sometimes they make checkpoints in areas to check the civilians’ cellphones, to see if anyone has recorded any videos or photos. If he has music on his phone, he’s arrested. If he has any picture of the city, ISIS will execute him. That’s what happened with our friend.”