The terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) frequently twists Islamic scripture to fit its needs.
But justification for the militants’ brutality doesn’t stop with the Quran.
The New York Times spoke to three ISIS defectors from Raqqa, Syria, who worked for a female “morality police” brigade before they fled to Turkey. After they joined ISIS, they were married to fighters, who provided them with some insight into how the group defends its violence.
Here’s what the women’s husbands told them, according to The Times:
“They had to be savage when taking a town to minimise casualties later, the men insisted. [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces were targeting civilians, sweeping into homes in the middle of the night and brutalizing men in front of their wives; the fighters had no choice but to respond with equal brutality, they said.”
This likely isn’t surprising to experts who have said the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against Syrians are the most effective recruiting tool for ISIS — even better than the slick online propaganda the group pumps out to lure in foreign fighters and brainwash the populace it controls.
The strategic security firm The Soufan Group noted earlier this year that the Assad regime’s brutal treatment of civilians encourages people both inside and outside Syria to support alternate groups that are fighting for power in the country, including ISIS.
The Syrian regime has been credibly accused of carrying out mass torture, deploying sarin nerve gas, dropping explosive steel barrels full of shrapnel and chlorine out of helicopters, encouraging starvation through sieges, and committing mass rape since the uprising against Assad’s rule began in March 2011.
“There is no justifying the actions of a group like the Islamic State or al-Nusra … but the Assad regime’s wholesale slaughter of civilians provides the groups with radicalized supporters far faster than Assad’s military can then fight them,” The Soufan Group said.
Assad’s atrocities also give power to ISIS’ message that it can protect Syrians from the regime.
Many are also motivated to join ISIS for protection from the group itself. When ISIS took Raqqa last year, “those who resisted, or whose family or friends had the wrong connections, were detained, tortured or killed,” according to the Times.
The women who talked to The Times said they joined ISIS to survive and “keep life tolerable.” Marrying fighters kept their families in good standing with ISIS. And joining the morality police (known as the Khansaa Brigade) allowed them some freedom of movement after ISIS implemented rules that said women could not leave their homes without a male relative to escort them.
ISIS also offers a better quality of life for those who join the group.
“For me, it was about power and money, mostly power,” explained Asma, a pseudonym for one of the women who spoke to The Times. “Since my relatives had all joined, it didn’t change a great deal to join. I just had more authority.”
NOW WATCH: Stadium security prevented one of the bombers from entering with an explosive vest, WSJ reports
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.