Undermined by desertions – Life under Daesh

Daesh executes minors in Raqqa City.

This week, Daesh publicly executed at least four individuals variously accused of spying for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Jordan, and the Global Coalition. However, reports indicate that these four victims were all under 14 years old. Taking the increased media focus on child soldiers and executioners into account, this newest development indicates that Daesh has seemingly abandoned any legal distinction between children and adults. These policies originated from the interior Daesh Wilayats of Raqqa and al-Khayr, and are likely to spread to peripheral provinces soon.

Daesh searches for deserters in Raqqa City.

On 6 January, Daesh set up roadblocks to inspect all vehicles leaving Raqqa City following reports that two of its fighters had deserted. Desertions have become increasingly common as Daesh loses territory, and Daesh fighters seek to flee via a network of opposition factions and smugglers that traffic Daesh fighters either to Idlib province to join factions there, notably Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), or to flee across the Turkish border. Bilal Shawash, a Daesh commander, recently defected to JFS as a notable example of this trend, and an article by The Financial Times published on 8 January discusses how control of the flow of defectors carries strategic significance for those opposing Daesh. Daesh deserters pay decent sums of money, and Daesh prisoners can be traded for large sums of money to their home countries, most lucratively from Gulf countries, as well as other prisoners and intelligence. The Levant Front (al-Jabha al-Shamiya) has reportedly made millions of dollars and currently controls over a hundred Daesh prisoners due to their control of a northern checkpoint along the Turkish border.

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