There is no safe way out. People vanish — their disappearance sometimes explained by an uninformative death certificate, or worse, a video of their beheading.
“People hate them, but they’ve despaired, and they don’t see anyone supporting them if they rise up,” said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family, which still lives under IS rule. “People feel that nobody is with them.”
The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians describing life under the group’s rule. One AP team travelled to Eski Mosul, a village on a bend in the Tigris River north of Mosul where residents emerged from nearly seven months under IS rule after Kurdish fighters drove the extremists out in January. IS forces remain dug in only a few miles away, so close that smoke is visible from fighting on the front lines.