ISIS fighters in Iraq have been surrendering themselves to Kurdish forces “en masse”, with many stating that they’re now realizing they won’t be fed or paid for their “contribution to the cause”.
Not too surprisingly, they’ve also admitted that they are turning themselves into the Kurds because they realize in doing so they probably won’t get beheaded, unlike what their Caliphate bosses will do to them.
For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday, according to Kurdish intelligence officials.
The fight for Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, took nine months, and by comparison, relatively few Islamic State fighters surrendered. Tal Afar fell next, and more quickly, in only 11 days. Some 500 fighters surrendered there.
One of the men smelled so bad that when he was taken into the small interrogation room, those inside were startled. He filled the doorway, appearing even larger than his actual size. The interrogator unbuckled his hip holster, resting his right hand on his pistol. Everyone in the room seemed scared of the man, even though his hands were tied behind his back. His thick black hair was Medusa-wild and shoulder-length, though his handsome face had only a wisp of black stubble on the chin.
“Hello,” a visitor said. “Where’s your beard?” The Islamic State requires all men to grow full beards.
“I’m only 21, I can’t grow it yet,” he said, clearly embarrassed.
Kurdish interrogators allowed a dozen of the surrendered fighters to be interviewed by a reporter as they arrived at the local headquarters of the Asayish, the Kurdish intelligence service, in the town of Dibis, near the Kurds’ front lines opposite Hawija. Officers monitored all interviews.
Many of the fighters claimed to have been just cooks or clerks. So many said they had been members of the Islamic State for only a month or two that interrogators suspected they had been coached to say that. Gone was the contempt for the world’s opinion, spewed out in one violent video after another — many of them made in Hawija, where grisly killings, especially of Kurdish prisoners, were the norm during their three-year reign over that Sunni Arab city in northern Iraq.
Most of the prisoners, though, claimed to have never seen a beheading, or even heard of such a thing.
Finally, the Islamic State wali, or governor of Hawija, told the men to turn themselves in to the Kurdish forces, known as the pesh merga, and to flee the advancing Iraqi Army and its Shiite militia allies, the Iranian-trained Hashed al-Shaabi, notorious for killing not only Islamic State prisoners but also their entire families.
Kurdish officials have been perplexed by the number of fighters who have surrendered. Many of the militants said they were ordered by their leaders to turn themselves in to the Kurds, who were known to take prisoners instead of killing them. But Capt. Ali Muhammed Syan, chief of the Asayish interrogators in Dibis, said even the fighters did not seem to know why their leaders were telling them to quit. “Maybe it’s some deal,” he said. “Maybe it’s just bad morale, I don’t know.”