Present at the Creation在一切开始之时
作者：HARALD DOORNBOS, JENAN MOUSSA 2016.8.16
The never-told-before story of the meeting that led to the creation of ISIS, as explained by an Islamic State insider.
Since its creation, we have learned about the Islamic State from its enemies. Its story has largely been told by those fighting the group in Iraq and Syria, traumatized civilians who have escaped its brutal rule, and the occasional defector. That is about to change. This is the story of Abu Ahmad, a Syrian operative for the Islamic State who witnessed the group’s lightning expansion first hand and spent months among its most notorious foreign fighters.
In this series of three articles, he provides unique insight into how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s political scheming paved the way for the Islamic State’s expansion into Syria, al Qaeda’s efforts to stem the group’s rise, and the terrifying weapons in the arsenal of the self-proclaimed “caliphate.” Some names and details have been omitted to protect Abu Ahmad.
Abu Ahmad never hesitated in his embrace of the Syrian uprising. Born in a northern Syrian city to a conservative and religious Sunni Arab family, he was a student when the revolt began in March 2011, and joined the protests against President Bashar al-Assad from day one.
“With excitement in our hearts we saw [the uprising in] Egypt happening, followed by the revolution in Libya,” he said. “We hoped the wind of change would not pass our country.”
When the uprising became a full-fledged civil war by mid-2012, Abu Ahmad decided to take up arms and fight. He joined a jihadi-leaning rebel group, whose members were mostly Syrians but also included some foreign fighters from Europe and Central Asia. The composition of the brigades was in flux then — every couple of months, Abu Ahmad’s group would either change its name or unite with other jihadi rebels. But then the groups began to consolidate: In Spring 2013, Abu Ahmad chose to side with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant when it officially expanded into Syria, as tensions escalated between the jihadi group and the Nusra Front. The group would go on to proclaim itself a worldwide caliphate in June 2014, assuming the name “Islamic State” to reflect its global ambitions. To this day, Abu Ahmad is a serving member in the organization, with unique insight into the group’s behavior and its history.
在2012年的年中，这场暴动演变为全面内战之时，Abu Ahmad决意拿起武器投入战斗。他加入了圣战倾向反抗组织有着圣战倾向的叛军，其主要成员来自叙利亚，也有少部分欧洲和中亚的外国士兵。这支部队的组成处于不断的变化当中——每隔几个月，Abu Ahmad的队伍要么改名要么和其他圣战组织联合。但是接下来，这些组织被整合起来：在2013年春，伊拉克和黎凡特伊斯兰国正式扩张进入叙利亚，在圣战组织和努斯拉阵线（译者注：努斯拉阵线为 “基地组织”的分支。）之间的紧张态势逐渐升级。在这个时候，Abu Ahmad选择了站在伊斯兰国的一边。这一组织进而在2014年6月宣称其为世界范围内的哈里发，以“伊斯兰国”为名来反应其全球性的野心。在这一天，Abu Ahmad是组织中的一名服役人员，对这一团体的行为和历史有着独特的认识。
Over the course of our more than 15 meetings with Abu Ahmad, we questioned him intensively about his knowledge of the jihadi group and his bona fides as one of the“soldiers of the caliphate.” Over a period of 10 months, we spent more than 100 hours with him. He patiently answered our questions on everything from how he ended up with the Islamic State, how the organization is organized, and the identity of the European foreign fighters within the group. Our interviews would go on for six hours a day, in week-long stretches.
Abu Ahmad took a great personal risk in talking to us. Because he is still with the Islamic State, we had to deliberately obscure some details about his life to protect his identity.
Abu Ahmad agreed to speak to us, he explained, for several reasons. Although he is still with the Islamic State, he doesn’t agree with everything the outfit does. He is attracted to the organization because he views it as the strongest Sunni group in the region. However, he is disappointed that it “has become too extreme,” blaming it for doing such things as crucifying, burning, and drowning its opponents and those who violate its rules.
For example, Abu Ahmad objected to a punishment that the Islamic State implemented in the northern Syrian city of al-Bab, where it put a cage in the middle of the city center, known as Freedom Square, to punish Syrian civilians guilty of minor crimes, such as selling cigarettes. The group, Abu Ahmad said, imprisoned Syrians in the cage for three days at a time, hanging a sign around their neck stating the crime that they had committed.
例如，Abu Ahmad反对伊斯兰国在叙利亚北部城市al-Bab实行的处罚，在那里它在城市中心被称为自由广场的地方放置了一个笼子，来惩罚那些仅仅犯下微小罪行例如售卖香烟的叙利亚市民。Abu Ahmad说，这个组织吧叙利亚人每三天一次囚禁在笼子里，在他们的脖子上挂上一个标志表明他们犯下的罪行。
“Now the square is known as the Punishment Square,” he said. “I think this kind of harsh punishment is bad for us. It is making ISIS more feared than liked by Sunnis, which is not good at all.”
In the past, Abu Ahmad said, he had hoped the Islamic State would become “jihadi unifiers,” capable of bringing Sunni jihadis together under one banner. He admired the foreign fighters whom he knew, mainly young men from Belgium and the Netherlands who had traveled to Syria to fight jihad. They had all lived in rich and peaceful countries, and while tens of thousands of Syrians had paid large sums of money to be smuggled to Europe to escape the war, these jihadis voluntarily traveled in the exact opposite direction.
“These foreigners left their families, their houses, their lands and traveled all the way to help us here in Syria,” Abu Ahmad said. “So to support us they are truly sacrificing everything they have.”
But Abu Ahmad would soon sour on aspects of the jihadi group. First, the Islamic State has not brought jihadis together; on the contrary, tensions have risen with other groups, and he worried that “the rise of ISIS led to the breakup with the Nusra Front and the weakening of unified jihadi forces in Syria.”
Secondly, while some of the foreign fighters were men who led truly religious lives in Europe, he discovered another group that he took to thinking of as the “crazies.” These were mostly young Belgian and Dutch criminals of Moroccan descent, unemployed and from broken homes, who lived marginal lives in marginal suburbs of marginal cities. Most of these crazies had no idea about religion, and hardly any of them ever read the Quran. To them, fighting in Syria was either an adventure or a way to repent for their “sinful lives” in Europe’s bars and discos.
There was Abu Sayyaf, a jihadi from Belgium, who often talked about beheadings. He once asked his emir, Abu al-Atheer al Absi, if he could slaughter somebody. “I just want to carry a head,” Abu Sayyaf said. Locally he was known as al-thabah, or “the slayer.”
阿布·沙耶夫（Abu Sayyaf），一个来自比利时的圣战者，经常谈及砍头。他曾经问他的埃米尔（译者注：对穆斯林统治者的尊称），Abu al-Atheer al Absi，他能否屠杀别人。“我只是想拿个脑袋，”Abu Sayyaf说。在当地，他被称为al-thabah，或者”屠杀者“。
In war, the first victim is often the truth. The stories Abu Ahmad told us were so incredible, and so close to the seat of the Islamic State’s power, that we were determined to put his assertions to the test.
In order to do so, we set up a quiz for Abu Ahmad. He said that he knew many of the Dutch and Belgian fighters who had joined the Islamic State, so we prepared a list with roughly 50 photographs of jihadis from those countries who are known to have left for Syria. During a meeting with Abu Ahmad, we asked him to identify the men in the pictures.
为了完成这件事，我们为Abu Ahmad设计了一个问卷。他说他认识很多参与伊斯兰国的荷兰和比利时战士，所以我们从这些国家前往叙利亚的人中准备了大约五十张圣战者照片的列表。在我们与Abu Ahmad的会面中，我们要求他辨认出现在照片中的人。
Abu Ahmad’s answers confirmed that he had extensive knowledge about the European jihadis fighting for the Islamic State. In front of us — without access to the internet and with no outside help — Abu Ahmad went through the images, and correctly identified roughly 30 of the jihadis by name. In most cases, he would add some anecdotes about the fighter. For the other pictures, he said that he had not seen the people and did not know their names.
A behind-the-scenes photograph supplied by Abu Ahmad showing an Islamic State execution in the city of Palmyra.
Abu Ahmad showed us private photos and videos on his laptop of some Dutch, Belgian, and Central Asian fighters in Syria, which are not posted online. The only way that he could have had these images was through deep, personal experience within the jihadi community.
Abu Ahmad also proved that he had behind-the-scenes access to some of the Islamic State’s most spectacular acts of violence. After the jihadi group captured Palmyra in 2015, Abu Ahmad paid a visit to the desert city to witness a Game of Thrones-like setting for executions of the group’s opponents. One day in July 2015, two Islamic State members from Austria and Germany executed two people who they claimed were Syrian Army soldiers on the ancient city’s great colonnade. This was one of many executions in Palmyra; on July 4, the Islamic State released a video showing the bloody spectacle of teenage fighters executing 25 alleged Syrian soldiers in the city’s amphitheater.
Abu Ahmad同样证明了他可以幕后接触伊斯兰国最为大规模的暴行。圣战组织在2015年占据帕尔米拉古城之后，Abu Ahmad前往这一沙漠中的城市去目睹一场如同美剧《权力的游戏》的情节——比如集体处决组织的反对者。在2015年6月的一天，两名分别来自奥地利和德国的伊斯兰国成员在一座古城巨大的石柱廊上处决了两名他们声称是叙利亚政府军的士兵。这是发生在帕尔米拉城无数起处决中的一起；在7月4日，伊斯兰国发布了一个极为血腥的视频，其中青少年圣战者在露天竞技台处决了25名所谓的叙利亚士兵。
Weeks before the official Islamic State video of the gruesome executions by the German and Austrian fighters went online, Abu Ahmad supplied us with a picture of the execution. The photograph not only shows the two prisoners moments before they are killed, but also shows two members of the Islamic State’s media unit capturing the horror scene. Never has the group published such a “behind-the-scenes” picture of one of its executions; it is not available online. The picture supplied by Abu Ahmad is truly unique — secretly taken by an insider.
在伊斯兰国官方公布这一来自德国和奥地利的圣战者的惨无人道的视频的几周之前，Abu Ahmad就向我们展示了这场处决的视频。照片不仅仅展示了两位囚犯被处决之前的时刻，还展现了两名伊斯兰国的拍摄者捕捉这一可怕场景的状况。这个组织从未在任何一个处决中展示这样的”幕后“照片，它无法从互联网上获得。Abu Ahmad提供的这张照片是独一无二的——由内部人士秘密拍摄。
Remarkably, one of the two cameramen in the photograph is Harry Sarfo, a German citizen who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. He said he subsequently became disillusioned with the group and fled back to Germany, where he is currently imprisoned. The New York Times profile of Sarfo claims that Islamic State members told Sarfo “to hold the group’s black flag and to walk again and again in front of the camera” as they filmed a propaganda video. The photograph supplied by Abu Ahmad, however, contradicts the narrative that Sarfo played a passive role in this production: While the video only shows him holding the black flag, the photograph shows that he was one of the two cameramen filming the killers who are about to execute the two Syrians.
显然，在照片中的两名拍摄者中有一名是Harry Sarfo，一个从德国前往叙利亚的圣战者。Harry Sarfo说他后来对圣战组织不再抱有幻想并逃回了德国，在德国他被逮捕了。纽约时报对Harry Sarfo的简介中声称伊斯兰国成员在制作宣传视频的时候，让Sarfo”举着组织的黑色旗帜在相机前一遍遍走“。Abu Ahmad提供的这一照片与Sarfo在过程中起着消极作用的叙述相矛盾：虽然视频中仅仅展现他举着黑旗，但是照片却说明他是两名杀手处决两名叙利亚人的拍摄者之一。
Abu Ahmad has not just watched the growing war between Syria’s jihadis from afar — he witnessed its beginning up close. The split between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was one of the most epochal events of the Syrian war; it resulted in a massive divide within the anti-Assad ranks and signaled the rise of a new jihadi force, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that has come to overshadow al Qaeda.
Abu Ahmad had a front-row seat to how the jihadi world’s biggest divorce unfolded.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivers a sermon during Friday prayer at a mosque in Mosul on July 5, 2014. (Photo by Al-Furqan Media/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)