John Cantlie, British Journalist Held by Daesh, Reports From Kobani

Islamic State have released a new video of British hostage John Cantlie, who has become the English speaking mouthpiece of the organization after over two years in captivity.

Cantlie has been the presenter of a series of news-style reports over recent weeks. Filmed wearing an orange tunic, he has delivered propaganda pieces direct to camera, in a series entitled Lend Me Your Ears. Episode 5, released Sunday 26th October, claims that hostages have been waterboarded, and in previous episodes he has spoken of being abandoned by his government.

Until the video from inside Kobani, released 27th October, it was difficult to ascertain if the Lend Me Your Ears series was shot in one sitting – current events in the fight against IS are not mentioned.

Now, however, Cantlie directly references news reports from the BBC on the 17th October, and is wearing a much fuller beard than that seen in the videos, which remains uniform throughout the five episodes of Lend Me Your Ears, suggesting that they were indeed shot at one time.

The Kobani video opens with footage from a remote controlled multi-rotor helicopter, surveying the damage done to the city, before it cuts to Cantlie.

He opens, “We are here inside the so-called PKK safe zone that is now controlled by the Islamic State.

“Despite continual US air strikes which have so far cost nearly half a billion dollars in total, the mujahideen have pushed deep into the heart of the city. They now control the eastern and southern sectors.

“The western media, and I can’t see any of them here, have been saying that the Islamic State are on the retreat. In the last 48 hours, hundreds of Islamic State militants have been reportedly killed in air strikes according to the IB Times on the 16th October. ‘We know we’ve killed several hundred of them,’ said John Kirby the Pentagon official. The Islamic State is retreating from the city of Kobani, said the BBC on October 17th, while Patrick Cockburn said in The Independent that despite suffering serious losses, the Islamic State was continuing its assault on the city.”

He also mentions the arrival of Peshmerga, dating the video to within the last seven days, “Kobani is now being reinforced by Iraqi Kurds who are coming in through Turkey while the mujahideen are being resupplied by the hopeless United States air force, who parachuted two crates of weapons and ammunition straight into the outstretched arms of the mujahideen.”

Cantlie then addresses the lack of on the ground reports leaving Kobani, “Without any safe access, there are no journalists here in the city, so the media are getting their information from Kurdish commanders and White House press secretaries, neither of whom have the slightest intention of telling the truth about what’s happening here on the ground.”

However, this is contradicted by a report on NBC from Iraqi Kurdish journalist Shirwan Qasim. Qasim spent three days in Kobani last week, where he reported that whilst Kurdish fighters are in good spirits, there are no safe areas in the city.

Kobani is, Qasim says, a ‘ghost town’ of just several hundred people.

Cantlie appears to confirm this, but claims the city is in the hands of Islamic State militants.

“The battle for Kobani is coming to an end, the mujahideen are just mopping up now, street to street and building to building; you can occasionally hear sporadic gunfire in the background as a result of those operations.”

He finishes his piece with a flourish of propaganda now expected from the Islamic State media machine, “Urban warfare is about as nasty and tough as it gets, and it’s something of a specialty of the mujahideen.”

Dabiq Issue 4, I’ve read it so you don’t have to.

About 20 years ago, I was in the pub in my home town. I was sat with my girlfriend, who was about 9 years older than me. Me an impressionable young man, desperate to impress her friends – a gay couple visiting from France. Guy had recently completed his theological doctoral thesis on a subject way beyond my understanding, something to do with explaining the Big Bang in terms of Christianity.

I mentioned to Guy that some friends of mine had been reading up on the Mayan predictions of the end of the world in 2012. Of course he scoffed at my naivety and suggested that the only likely way this astrology would be proved correct would be through a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was the first time I’d heard the phrase.

Pub. Girlfriend. Gay. Christianity. Astrology. Things way beyond the tolerance of Daesh.

I’ve spent a day sifting through the latest issue of Dabiq, Daesh’s version of the western magazine Hello!, probably best charicatured as Jihad!. It is, as you’d expect, a disturbing read. Propaganda glorifying recent victories and the establishment of two new wilāyah or administrative districts. Photos show engineers restoring power lines, markets selling shuti (watermelons) and checkpoints, so common to this part of the world and not that different to those through which I pass on my way to Sulaymaniyah, just the black clothes and heavy beard of the guards belying their true identity.

Several pages are given over to spoils of war, with photos illustrating weapons seized in their recent victories. Some of the pictures are highly-stylized, as one might expect a legitimate arms manufacturer advertise their wares to governments; they sit comfortably on the pages of the ‘glossy’ PDF. Elsewhere, to remind us of Daesh’s strength and ability to use these heavy guns and canons, the photos are altogether more action based, with flames spitting from the nozzle of large calibre machine gun, and a recently discharged canon erupting volcano-like.

There is the proud news that Ansar al-Islam has pledged allegiance to the Caliphate, with pictures of joyous men (of course) hugging after the bay’ah (religious pledge of allegiance) and a short statement by Ansar al-Islam, typically hyperbolic and praising Daesh for rubbing the ‘faces of secularist Kurds in the dirt’.

About half way through, we come to a report on military operations; there is no shying away from their murderous actions, with photos of 100s of captives being ‘marched to their death’, images of dead ‘PKK Apostates’ and executed Peshmerga in Daquq.

As if to sugar what they see as the necessary pill of death, we are then treated to a few pages on the welfare state Daesh is bringing to the caliphate – evocative stories of childhood cancer patients, homes for the elderly, reconstruction; all naturally illustrated with unverifiable photos.

There are profiles of various world leaders, of the enemies of the caliphate. Specific religious teachings, although all of the magazine is imbued with the movement’s interpretation of Islam.

An interpretation that admits to and justifies the taking of Yazedi women and girls as slaves. As followers of the pre-Islamic faith are regarded as mushrikīn, roughly people that worship a god other than Allah, there is no room for paying a tax like Christians or Jews, but rather they were taken and divided among Daesh fighters. They are sold on, and the entire 1,500 article is a sickening, bland religious justification for the enslavement of women. They do mention that other scholars of Islam refute their interpretation, but of course they don’t argue, merely dismiss it as incorrect, a softening of teachings to coincide with our modern world. The abandonment of slavery, they argue, has led to an increase in fāhishah – adultery and fornication; pretty ripe coming from a group that has, without doubt, committed mass rapes of women, girls and boys.

Finally, they declare that the reintroduction of slavery is one of the signs of al-Malhamah al-Kubrā – a final Muslim v Muslim war that will take place after their victory in the current conflict. It all resonates as apocalyptic and end of days. That we are all soon to be judged in the eyes of Allah, according to prophecies.

And to that, one thing gives me hope; that Daesh, in their hubris, will fulfil their own prophesy and disappear, taking their violent, ultra-misogynistic, brutal interpretation of Islam with them.