EXCLUSIVE: What did documents, records left behind by ISIS in Raqqa reveal?
A few days separate the International Coalition in cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces from marking the fourth year of their fight against ISIS, which has been confined to three Syrian towns near the Iraqi borders.
The greatest battle involved dragging out ISIS’ “amirs” or princes and leaders and to defeat them in their stronghold of the Syrian city of Raqqa. The latter fell under ISIS rule in mid-2014 and had been taken as their operating, financing and planning headquarters from where several terrorist attacks targeting a number of Arab, Muslim and Western capitals were first hatched.
The operation to free the town of Raqqa, codenamed Operation Wrath of Euphrates, started in the summer of 2016 and proceeded until the liberation and restoration of the city in October 2017.
Despite the inhabitants’ efforts to replace all of the city’s black paint with white shades – which was adopted by ISIS as its emblem and identity and subsequently used to dye all its headquarters from seized hospitals, schools, mosques, and government departments – today upon entering the city which is still “desolate” and wandering through its streets, one cannot help but notice the remnants left by ISIS here and there.
From bombed cars and houses to corpses scattered under the rubble as a result of the destruction witnessed by the city revealing the viciousness of the fighting, the battles and the dire price paid by the city’s inhabitants to recover their city of Raqqa.
Amid all of this lay papers with the stamp of the so-called “Islamic State”, scattered all over the organization’s strongholds, marking the end of the story the world has witnessed which was previously narrated through ISIS’ publications documenting the organization’s crimes and further revealing aspects in relation to the fall of ISIS and its rule over the region and its inhabitants.
Observations inside Raqqa
Among what Al Arabiya English found during its tour in a number of the former organization’s centers in Raqqa, starting from the “Heaven Square” and the “Hour Square” – which are squares used by the organization to carry out executions and flogging against violators among the inhabitants, including women and children – to the stadium in Raqqa known as the “Black Stadium”, considered as ISIS’ main operating base as well as the National field hospital which represented the last of its strongholds in the city.
The organization’s tampering with these edifices was apparent throughout the documents and papers left behind which reveals the extent of the organization’s appropriation of the city’s civic facilities - from hospitals, sports, and entertainment centers - rendering them into their terror courts, prisons as well as torture and military centers.
Judicial system under ISIS
In one of the courts at the Black Stadium, examples of ISIS’s judicial system were scattered - mainly of forms they were yet to use.
Among these documents were various models of what is known as “ISIS’ judicial diwans (offices)”, dispersed in the corridors of the stadium’s cellars which were transformed into prisons and cells. One of these documents was a model issued by the Office of Justice and Grievances concerning the mechanism related to the execution of a judgment, as well as examples of arrest warrants, interrogation transcripts and lawsuit reports.
Through the observation of these documents and forms, it is clear that ISIS’ officers did not possess anything that could guarantee the rights of the defendants or any opportunity to appeal. Issuance of such documents were enough excuse to kill a person and cut off his limbs.
How much blood was shed under these papers, heads and hands severed and skins flogged and innocents have been thrown over buildings? All because of a paper such as these signed by a young man with a surname of Caucasian, European, Western or Middle Eastern origins.
Papers revealing ISIS losses
Meanwhile, in the square of the national hospital which represented one of the main medical centers in which the members of ISIS (men and women) were treated revealed a whole new aspect of the organization and was in fact one of the last facilities to be liberated from ISIS.
Contrary to ISIS claims and propaganda, the medical supply invoices revealed the extent of the organization’s human losses and casualties suffered by its fighters due to battles and military confrontations with the rest of the military factions in Raqqa since the city’s subjugation and the takeover of Nusra Front’s centers, al-Qaeda’s faction in Syria and Ahrar al-Sham, in addition to the battles fought during the liberation of the city of Raqqa at the hands of the International Alliance forces headed by the US.
According to ISIS records and registers of its Jihadi fighters’ medical bills inspected by Al Arabiya English during its tour in one of the remaining emergency rooms in the hospital, it was evident that most of the names included were of the organization’s own fighters who came to seek treatment from various Syrian cities such as Hama, Homs and Damascus. One form documented between the year 2016-2017 was by the official in charge of the register, "Abu Mohammed al-Qahtani."
It was also clear through the the medical supplies bills that the priority of treatment and medical care in the hospital of Raqqa, which fell under ISIS control, was given to their own fighters and not for civilians or the city’s residents.
The purchase orders documented in the Jihadi fighters’ register mainly comprised “cotton, medical gauze, surgical blades, medical injections, lidocaine used in anesthesia, serums, and povidone for wounds and burns", and were listed in just 17 bills amounting to 1 million Saudi riyals (SR).
Among the documents left behind by ISIS was a health file of one of the organization’s young victims, or those who described themselves as “immigrant women”, called “Safia Turkistani”, a 21-year-old probably “holding Russian citizenship.”
According to the diagnosis summary of Safia in the health file and according to her doctor, "Abdel Salam Attieh" stamped by the supervisor of the Department of Rheumatology "Abu Omair Damasci", she suffered from injuries due to "flying shells, shrapnel resulting in fractures in the ribs and abdominal wall burning" and that 15 days after she had given birth to a baby.
It is worth noting that after ISIS’ occupation of the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, the organization managed to seize a number of printing presses allocated to the printing of governmental papers ] including bills, certificates and forms for commercial and judicial papers, What came next was simple modification by adding the emblem of the so-called "Islamic State" and organizing its health, judicial and Islamic offices.