Life inside the world’s most notorious terror organization isn’t all murder and mayhem. Veteran members of Islamic State are using a social-networking website to answer more mundane questions from aspiring militants, who want answers on such prosaic issues as what to wear, how cold it gets, if they have to buy their own weapons, whether there’s wi-fi, and whether they have to clean up after themselves.
The website Ask.fm, which allows users to ask questions of each other anonymously, has become a popular forum for Western, English-speaking Islamic State militants to talk about what life is like inside the extremist group—and to pass on information to those who are thinking of joining.
Some recruits are concerned that the weather might be different in the “caliphate” than it is at home. “How cold does it get there akhy [my brother]?” one potential recruit asked an apparent British Islamic State militant who calls himself Abu Fariss. Abu Fariss warned him that in Syria, ISIS militants do not have the same creature comforts as at home.
“Veryyy cold and its not like UK, no central heating,” Abu Fariss wrote. He instructed another potential recruit to bring warm clothing.
Others worried that medical services in war-torn Syria and Iraq might not be as good as the U.K.’s National Health Service. One potential recruit had a question about dentistry: “is there good healthcare there? because i wear braces … or should i wait till they come off (about 9 months) then make hijrah [emigration]??”
“I’ve seen mujahideen with braces, come here inshallah [God willing]. Theres good healthcare,” Abu Fariss wrote.
‘No, we get weapons from Dawlatul-Islāmiyyah,’ replied an apparent British militant named Abu Qa’qa al-Britani, referring to ISIS.
But he admitted to another potential recruit that contact lenses could pose a problem on the battlefield. “how easy is it to get contact lenses there? are they expensive?” the ISIS hopeful had asked.
“Abu dujana [another British ISIS militant, who was killed in Syria] used to wear contacts. He said he didn’t like it because of the fact of if theres an … alert of an attack it would take like 5 mins to position the lens and make sure its comfortable whilst your being attacked … another thing is that if dust goes in your eyes whilst you’re in a battle = problem lol. He would prefer glasses over lens,” Abu Fariss explained.
Many potential ISIS recruits are also concerned about the availability of wireless Internet in Syria and Iraq, and whether there are Internet cafes. “Do you think in the future they will improve wi-fi and stuff? Like it will be available to more people once the state gets more stable and expands?” one wanted to know. Abu Fariss replied in the affirmative.
Then there are questions that hint at very specific motivations for wanting to join the Islamic State. “Could you take captured woman as slaves? As your right hand possession?” one user asked. “Dawlah [ISIS] sorts that out,” was the succinct response.
Several recruits were worried about having to cook for themselves in Syria. “Do u have to cook for yourself and clean everyday?” asked one. Abu Fariss replied: “It depends, if you’re married you get days off. Also depends on the type of work you do, if you’re front line a lot there are cooks for your katiba [brigade] and stuff. However cleaning you have to do it yourself unless you’re married or you have your family with you (mum, sisters etc),” he said.
“Do i have to bring clothes to fight in. Will dowlah give me dem shalwar kamees”—traditional clothing worn in parts of South and Central Asia—”and other camo gear?” one potential recruit asked an apparent British ISIS militant named Abu Qa’qa al-Britani, who reassured him that ISIS provides clothes. “[A]nd also you can buy here and get them tailor made,” he added.
Another ISIS hopeful wanted to know how much money he would need to travel to “khilafa land”—the lands ISIS controls. “[N]othing really at all is provided. All that’s needed is to pay towards getting here,” Abu Qa’qa replied. Others were eager to find out how much cash they would have to lay out for weapons. “Do u pay for ur weapons?” asked one.
“No, we get weapons from Dawlatul-Islāmiyyah,” responded Abu Qa’qa, referring to ISIS. Elsewhere, Abu Qa’qa provides cost estimates in case a fighter wanted to buy his own weapons—a modern AKM Kalashnikov assault rifle goes for around $1,200, while an older AK-47 costs even more.
Among the potential ISIS recruits asking Abu Fariss and Abu Qa’qa questions were women, who mostly wanted to know what life was like for women in the areas controlled by ISIS. One said she was having doubts about leaving home without her parents’ consent. Abu Qa’qa reassured her that she should come to Syria and suggested she bring her parents along.
“As for you coming, your parents’ approval isn’t necessary even though it’s better if you can gain it from them however, the best thing would be to bring them along with you. As for the issue of education, there are Islamic institutes [for] women here. As for academic education I’m unsure as to how far that goes,” he said.