Friday, June 27, 2014

What is your name?

An interview that is literally worth life or death.

With Hindus in Bangladesh the ID interview was fairly trivial. Just remove the underclothes, inspect the male organ and (if you wish) cut it off. In the killing fields of Mosul things are a bit more tricky. If you can hold your nerve you may be able to escape. OTOH a lifetime of habits is difficult to change.And the killers are merciless...
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As the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters' capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shias are singled out for execution.
ISIS believes that the Shias are apostates and must die in order to forge a pure form of Islam. The two main branches of Islam diverge in their beliefs over who is the true inheritor of the mantle of the Prophet Muhammad. The Shias believe that Islam was transmitted through the household of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that it comes down through followers of the Prophet Muhammad who, they say, are his chosen people.
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What is your name? A quick look at an Iraqi's national identity card or passport can be a signal. Shias believe that the leadership of Islam was passed down through the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali and his sons Hussain (or Hussein), Hassan and Abbas, among others. While some Sunnis and members of other Islamic groups may also have those names, ISIS would most likely associate them with the Shias.
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Where do you live?  In every city and province, even majority Sunni ones, there are enclaves that are known to be Shia. People who said they came from one of those neighborhoods would most likely be killed.
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How do you pray? Shias and Sunnis offer prayers in slightly different ways, with Sunnis generally folding their hands or crossing their arms in front of their stomachs and Shias leaving them extended, palms resting on their thighs.
In a chilling video that appeared to have been made more than a year ago in the Anbar Province of Iraq, ISIS fighters stopped three truck drivers in the desert and asked them whether they were Sunnis or Shias. All three claimed to be Sunni. Then the questions got harder. They were asked how they performed each of the prayers: morning, midday and evening. The truck drivers disagreed on their methods, and all were shot.
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What kind of music do you listen to? Recordings of religious songs could also be a tipoff. Similarly, even the ringtone on a person's telephone could be a clue because it might be from a Sunni or Shia religious song.
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There are other clues, but none are completely reliable. For instance, a number of Shias wear large rings, often with semiprecious stones. But so do some Sunnis, and others. Generally, Iraqi Shias and Sunnis are often indistinguishable in appearance. That is even more evident in many families and tribes in which there has been intermarriage for generations.
Given that the rigid views of ISIS are fairly well known, it is perhaps natural to wonder why hostages do not simply lie about their origins. It seems that many do, yet in very tense, perilous encounters, people can easily get tripped up. Sometimes another person in a group might inadvertently give someone away. Others refuse to lie about their faith. 
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regards