God’s Country: Life Under ISIS

Published May 24, 2015
Updated September 16, 2015


Throat Slitting

Source: Shoe Bat

While things have gone to seed with the Caliphate’s infrastructure, the vice has tightened around its subjects. At first the religious police were content with merely urging moderate Muslims to attend services, but after the fall of Mosul mosque attendance became mandatory. Backsliders now face 40 lashes for missing services.

Professionals, such as pharmacists, are compelled to attend special religious classes in order to keep their licenses. Businesses, such as taxis and trucking companies, are forced to stay open even when there’s no fuel. ISIS has seized private bank accounts to fund itself, and the group has resurrected scripture nobody has applied in centuries to impose special taxes on the people it rules.

All Muslims in the Caliphate must pay the Zakat, which is a sort of Islamic tithe amounting to an annual fee of 2.5 percent of believers’ total wealth. A Muslim in Raqqa who has a net worth of $20,000, therefore, must pay $500 a year. Not too bad, until you realize that $20,000 might be a work truck and a shack, and that 80 percent of Syrians make less than $286 a month. Still, financial hardship is taken under consideration for the Zakat, and the very poor are not always obliged to pay the full amount.

The same cannot be said, however, for non-Muslims, who must pay the Jizya tax on non-believers. This tax used to be charged by the Ottoman Empire, but nobody in the Middle East has bothered with it since the 1920s. Jizya under ISIS is 1, 2, or 4 dinars, depending on how “rich” the household is. Four dinars is half an ounce of gold, or $660, which must be paid for each military-age male in the household.

So a family with an average Syrian income – around $3,000 a year – and three sons, which isn’t large by Syrian standards, must pay between $1,220 and $2,440 per year for the privilege of living under ISIS. Exemptions are granted for each son who agrees to join the “army,” which mostly means standing around waiting to get hit by smart bombs and hellfire missiles dropped from drones. Bear in mind that wives and daughters are not allowed to help out by earning a second income, which brings us to women.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.