Yup; we're filling out the "brutal, dictatorial a*****e" bingo card right off the top, today.
But ISIS is a Sunni organization. So when they first showed up on the scene, promising to protect Sunnis against a government that had often done the opposite, a lot of people took them at their word. Abu Kaes was one of them.
He worked as a chef for a TV station in Mosul, and when ISIS first took the city in 2014, he ran the f**k away, as you'd expect. But then, unwisely only in retrospect, he came back:
"After I made contact with my family, they said there was nothing dangerous. At first, it was strange seeing IS with their long hair and beards ... there were no police, there was no public transit. There was almost no school ... At first they wanted to gain people's trust. Prove they would not be dangerous."
Though maybe ditching the full terrorist uniform to direct traffic might have helped that perception.
I met Abu Kaes at the Khazer refugee camp, outside of Mosul. He eventually fled ISIS control, and the many explosions that surround them. I met his friends, Abu Haider and Abu Ahmed, at the same camp. All of these names are mocking pseudonyms, picked by my sources. Abu means "father of," and it's a common nickname schema in the Arab world. But it was also adopted by many of the foreign fighters who joined ISIS. Like this Canadian convert who called himself "Abu Muslim:"