News / Middle East

    Islamic State Widow Shames IS Leaders

    FILE - Militants with the Islamic State group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria.
    FILE - Militants with the Islamic State group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria.

    The widow of an Islamic State fighter has voiced rare open criticism of the terror group's leaders, complaining about the treatment of the widows and families of dead fighters. Her protest letter, posted online, has been circulated widely on pro-IS social media sites.

    Criticism of IS leaders is seldom expressed in public forums by followers of the group. Critics are labeled murtads (apostates) and dissenters receive harsh treatment, including whippings, torture, and are often executed.

    The woman calling herself al-Muhajirahm, apparently a Westerner, laments the meager support given to some widows.

    “Imagine that you’ve helped a sister who requested zakat [charity] two days ago, but you have ignored the sister who has been waiting a month before,” she writes. “She cries every night, concerned about how to feed her children as her husband is martyred. The tears that roll down her cheeks and the pain she suffers will be something you will be asked about and accountable for,” she adds.

    The letter, titled, "A Reminder to the Leaders of the Islamic State," was first posted January 27 on, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington-based group that monitors jihadist online activity.
    “Such criticism is almost never found in such a widely circulated document,” says Anat Agron, a MEMRI researcher. “In the past, IS members have publicly criticized aspects of life in the Islamic State, however, normally such posts were swiftly deleted.”

    IS hypocrisy

    Some male deserters from the terror group recently cited the treatment of IS widows as an example of IS hypocrisy. They expressed disgust to academics from the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, a U.S.-based research group, about how widows were often forced to marry other fighters quickly after their husbands had been killed in battle.

    “In the case of widows of IS fighters up for remarriage, our informants stated that IS does not follow the normal Sharia practice of iddah - having the widow wait for a period of four months and 10 days to ensure that she was not pregnant by her former husband,” write researchers Anne Speckhard and Ahmet Yayla, in a report the two published in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism in December.

    “Instead, IS widows are expected to remarry quickly, a practice that serves the needs of IS cadres who are often single and sexually motivated.” Iddah is considered also a woman’s right, allowing her time to grieve.

    Women as currency

    Women are used as currency by IS. Foreign and Syrian male recruits are told they will be given wives as well as homes and money. That can be a major motivation for joining, analysts and anti-IS activists say, especially for young men from impoverished communities in North Africa.

    Three Syrian women from Raqqa, considered the de facto capital of the terror group, told The New York Times last year that they fled to Turkey at great risk because they realized they were in effect being treated as sex slaves and rebelled at being forced to marry strangers soon after losing husbands from earlier arranged marriages.

    The women — given the pseudonyms Aws, Dua and Asma by The New York Times for their protection — said they had bartered their lives and agreed to marry in the first place for the benefit of their families and to secure better standards of living.

    Just 10 days after the husband of the woman called Dua was killed on a suicide mission, “Another man from her husband’s unit came to the house. He told Dua she could not stay home alone and would need to marry again, immediately,” according to the paper.

    In her letter, al-Muhajirah warns IS leaders: “Everything that happens to your subjects is something that you will be questioned about on the Day of Judgement.” She says, “Every wife of a shahid [martyr] from your battalion is under your care...Fear Allah in the way you cater for her needs. She is your responsibility and all her needs now rest on your shoulder…This is your trust, she is under your care, so do not abandon her.”

    She goes on to quote ideologue Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Islamist theorist respected by jihadist groups. “Sayyid Qutb said, ‘To abandon the duties Allah has assigned to the Muslim community is betrayal of Allah and His Messenger.’”

    A former IS cadre now in the southern Turkey town of Urfa, who asked not be identified, told VOA that the terror bosses may well be withholding charity from widows who are refusing or delaying remarriage. “This is a way to force them to do so — starve or marry,” he said.

    Financial problems

    Because of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, IS may be struggling financially — another possible underlying reason for insufficient support of widows. According to leaked internal documents from inside IS territory, the group has had to slash the salaries of fighters by half.

    An order issued by the terror group’s treasury, and translated last month by Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, an analyst at the Middle East Forum, an American think tank, announced the cuts.

    “On account of the exceptional circumstances the Islamic State is facing, it has been decided to reduce the salaries that are paid to all mujahideen by half, and it is not allowed for anyone to be exempted from this decision, whatever his position.”

    Al-Muhajirah's criticism comes as rifts within the group appear to be on the rise in territory controlled by the terror group in neighboring Iraq.

    IS internal security cadres Tuesday raided the office of the taxation department in the city of Mosul, in the province of Nineveh, and shot dead its head, Saleh Ahmed al-Jabouri, and three of his guards. Media activist Abdullah al-Malla told the independent local ARA News that it wasn’t clear whether the slayings were carried out on orders from IS leaders.

    “Killing al-Jabouri reflects the growing rifts in the ranks of IS,” al-Malla said.

    There were also local news reports recently that IS publicly beheaded 20 of its own militants after they were caught fleeing the battle lines in Nineveh.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora