RAQQA — Islamic militants in the Syrian city of Raqqa carried out two mock crucifixions in the public square this past week, hanging two men accused of fighting Muslims, reports state.
A group called the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) is said to be behind the crucifixions, which occurred on Tuesday. In total, seven prisoners were executed in the city, which were held responsible for a grenade attack on Muslims in the Euphrates Valley. The men were captured by members of the group, some being shot in the head.
“Ten days ago, attackers on a motorbike threw a grenade at an ISIS fighter at the Naim roundabout. A Muslim civilian had his leg blown off and a child was killed,” the group posted on Twitter. “Our fighters immediately set up a roadblock and succeeded in capturing them. They were then able to detain other members of the cell.”
One eyewitness, Abu Ibrahim, posted photographs of the crucifixions on the popular social media site. The men were reportedly already dead when they were tied to metal poles with makeshift wooden crosses attached. Their faces were blindfolded and covered with blood. One man had a banner wrapped around his torso, which read, “This man fought against Muslims and threw a grenade in this place.”
Crowds stood around to view the spectacle, which was reportedly meant to serve as a deterrent for those who might behave likewise. One photograph shows a young boy just feet from the cross, looking on with curiosity and shock.
“What they are conveying is those who oppose ISIS rule oppose God’s rule, and those who are enemies of ISIS are enemies of God and deserve the highest form of punishment possible,” Abbas Barzegar, assistant professor of Islamic studies at Georgia State University, told CNN.
Online comments from terrorist groups applauded the crucifixion displays, with one writing, “lol become new false Jesus,” according to the Daily Beast.
“The spy next to him started urinating as soon as we tied him up, about 10 minutes after he was killed,” another wrote.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Tuesday’s execution was not the first public crucifixion carried out by ISIS, as as the group also crucified a shepherd who had allegedly committed theft against a Muslim.
“These violent acts are part of a fundamentalist revival campaign, but these forms of ancient punishment were rarely if ever seen in the Muslim world in recent centuries,” Barzegar says. “It has become a standard feature of fringe Islamist groups to revive these outdated practices in an effort to bring back what they believe is authentic.”
Abu Irahim told reporters that life in Raqqa is difficult under Islamic rule.
“Life here is very hard. People are tired and they hate everything,” he stated. “If you don’t close your shop during prayer time you get lashes, if you smoke you get lashed, if you say one wrong thing you can be executed. Just like that. It’s that easy for ISIS.”