The Current

ISIS defector exposes caliphate's highly organized society

Today we bring you the story of life in the so-called ISIS "caliphate." For one, its remarkably, meticulously planned and organized: from a functioning government bureaucracy with its own separate ministries, to citizenship tests, courts, and even healthcare and welfare payments.
In exclusive interviews over several days with an ISIS defector, journalist Michael Weiss describes ISIS as a highly organized society. (Reuters)

Brutal and depraved.

That's certainly the reputation ISIS earned -- and seems Hell bent on brandishing -- to the outside world.

But what very few Westerners have ever witnessed is life inside the territory it controls within Syria and Iraq. 

In October of this year, journalist Michael Weiss met with a defector from the Islamic State.  Over three days of interviews in Istanbul, a clearer picture of life inside ISIS territory began to emerge. And for all the chaos ISIS seeks to sow outside its territory, life on the inside is said to be highly organized and disciplined.

Michael Weiss is a senior editor with The Daily Beast and co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror." We reached him on his cell phone en route from New York City to Washington. 

Not only does ISIS have a sophisticated internal bureaucracy, but they also have a prolific media wing. In addition to producing propaganda videos that have become so familiar, they also produce an English-language magazine called Dabiq.

Robert Evans is a writer and editorial manager at the humour website, and he has read every issue of Dabiq cover-to-cover. We reached him in Eureka, California. 

University of Oxford's Lydia Wilson says the insight she gained interviewing ISIS prisoners in Iraq reveals they fight for reasons that are intensely personal, focused on family. (Reuters)

We'll continue trying to get a deeper understanding of ISIS next week when we talk to Lydia Wilson, from the University of Oxford. She has interviewed captured ISIS fighters awaiting execution in an Iraqi prison. It's part of her work travelling the world talking to fighters on all sides of conflicts, and trying to learn what makes people risk their lives to fight for their beliefs. Tune in Monday to hear that conversation.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli.