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Reflection On “Escaping ISIS” Documentary Film

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I watched the documentary “Escaping ISIS” from Frontline. The main focus of the documentary is on the actions of ISIS in Northern Iraq and people’s resistance and attempts to fight back in their own ways. One of the main focuses of this documentary is the religious persecution of Yazidis and the subsequent slavery that faced women that were persecuted. Yazidis are a religious minority within the region that are constantly attacked and persecuted by ISIS forces. The men are killed and the women are taken as sex slaves by ISIS because they use religious text to justify the enslavement and torture. However, despite the overwhelming presence and threat of ISIS does not stop people from fighting back and trying to help these women escape.

The main character in this documentary is Khalil al-Dakhi who before all this was employed as a lawyer. But after his hometown that he had moved away from was attacked by ISIS he decided to try and fight back in his own way. He wanted to help these women flee and be reunited with people who care about them. So now he runs a large network of individuals both within and outside of ISIS territory with the purpose of gathering information and helping these girls to return home. It’s extremely dangerous work as ISIS is aware of Khalis work. In act throughout the documentary we hear of many agents who have died after being discovered by ISIS. During one mission to recover a girl named Aeida, three members of his team lost their lives. Later on in the film he tells of how two of his agents were discovered and were thus stoned to death. Despite all the danger they continue to persevere and work to return thee women home. It’s an extremely difficult job. Sometimes a rescue can be done in as little time as a week and sometimes it can take several months. That’s one of the splinter cells doing work. Another group doing work is located Turkey who is doing work to film and gather information on ISIS. It’s dangerous work as they continually have to change IDS in order to avoid detection. There goal is to get the film and info out of the area and into the hands of the world so people can plan and document what ISIS is doing. The main bulk of the documentary focuses on these two individuals and their groups and how they act. Towards the end its ends on a mix of a somber and pleasant note. We’ve just seen several people be reunited with family members who have escaped from ISIS captivity with help of Khalis group. Families are reunited and we see the lone agent return to the dangerous ISIS territory. We see that the work is not over and that there are still many more people to be rescued. And we end on a note of Khalil saying that he believes ISIS can see him as they are 4km away and that he wants them to. He wants them to see him and the others rebuilding their lives and their normalcy to show they aren’t afraid and that ISIS can never truly stop them. It’s an extremely heartwarming and inspiring note to end on.

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I personally learned several things during the watching of this film. For example one key thing I learned about was the persecution of the Yadish people. Before i only really thought that ISIS was slaughtering indiscriminately and just wanted to target anyone they could. However this taught me that one if the biggest targets is the Yadish because they are being persecuted for being a religious minority who the ISIS interpretation allows to attack. Additionally their interpretation allows for the buying and selling of Yadish women is allowed under their interpretation allows for the keeping and selling of Yadish women as slaves so that’s why they are especially targeted. Another thing I learned was justhow large a scale ISIS affect has been. When you see the news on ISIS a world away, people sometimes may accidentally tend to downplay how large it is. I know ive accidentally done it. Without the full scale and idea of the atrocities that ISIS is committing one may not fully understand. This documentary does a great job of showing the scale. When you see the village in question and hear how this village of several thousand people is now completely abandoned because of ISIS it really strikes you. When you hear that despite the brave efforts and lost lives taken to rescuing a few individuals, there are still thousands of women and children still held in slavery in ISIS and are being tortured, it really hits home just how hopeless the situation may be and how the brave and resilient those facing ISIS truly are.

One final thing that I learned from this documentary than i found extremely interesting was the All Female Police Force working for ISIS and other women joining radical jihadist groups. Seeing the news overseas of how women are captured and tortured by these ISIS groups, one would tend to think that the female membership in these groups would be rather low. But they have more and more women joining these jihadist groups alongside them. Additionally there was a bit about a all female police force working in an ISIS controlled city. It talks about how these women believe in what they are doing and are looking for women who are breaking dress code and report them and to punish them in very harsh methods. It’s incredible to think about it, but it makes more sense when you think about situations in the past such as Jewish citizens turning in other Jewish citizens during WW2 either because of agreement or fear of persecution. But I had known idea of their involvement. One final thing that I learned was just how difficult it is to struggle someone out of ISIS controlled territory and slavery. It requires a massive network of agents all gathering information and working diligently with anonymity.It requires intense bravery of those agents. It requires calm and collected behavior from the women to stay safe and hide communications and plans from their captors. And all the work can take an extremely long time just to rescue a few people from captivity. The work done by all these people is truly amazing.

There are several elements that we learned in class that we can tie together with what was seen in the documentary. For example one of the key points I noticed was the formation of a social group or movement.One of the key formations of a social movement or group is the clash of values and I see that as a prime example of the formation of Khalil’s group of agents. ISIS is coming in with their values which are horrible and repugnant and are just an excuse to harm people. These values that ISIS has are a stark contrast to the values held by everyday people in the region. And so when these two values and one clearly has more power in situations than the other, a social movement is formed. Khalili’s social movement was formed when his and others values were threatened and they are fighting to keep their social values secure as well as their communities and families.

Additionally the breaking of social norms and values of decency by ISIS puts then im direct confrontation with the citizens so it only makes it more likely that people would rise and resist their oppressive ways in order to preserve the norm. Conflicting Values especially when one tries to oppress the other cause a ton of social movements to be born.That’s another topic we talked about in class that conflict is often derived conflicting social norms. Another thing that we can connect from class is the Structural Conduciveness. There needs to be something to form against for a social movement.

ISIS having a stranglehold on the region is a mechanism within the society that provides people with a need to form a social movement to counteract their actions. The Precipitating Actions of ISIS within the region of murder and kidnapping also help drive people into forming this social movement.We can also identify this type of social movement.

We can classify this as a Resource Mobilization approach to a social movement. This is a social movement where people join because it is the best way to achieve their goals by using the resources at their disposal.In this movement you have to consider that it is made of everyday citizens who don’t have the resources tofight back fully and their goal is to see the girls and family members returned home safely. So they use their resources of people and communications, they fight back in their own way bu returning these people back home where they belong and showing the oppressors that they will not be made afraid and will continue to fight and preserve their life and norms. We could also describe this as a resistance movement. While it is a resistance in some senses that it opposes the oppressors, they aren’t fully fighting back as they lack the resources and training to fully mount a resistance against ISIS forces. They have to fight in their own unique way.

And finally one last thing I connected from the documentary to lessons from class is the power structure of the social movement. There are several aspects of the social movement hierarchy that we saw in the documentary. The key one is of course a leader. A leader is integral part of a well oiled social movement as they keep the pace and the goal clear. And we see that in Khalil as he is the leader of it. He organizes, collects info, makes contacts and works hard with what he has available to him in order to achieve his organization’s goals. While we didn’t see much of the leadership structure outside of him, we did see insight into the acquisition of resources. We see Khalil gathering information from everyday citizens, meeting and communicating with his agents and making the plans. Having a good combination of the resources and leadership combined helps this organization to grow stronger and have a more unified message and goal.

Overall I think this was an excellent documentary that taught me many things about the ongoing conflict within the region and how people are fighting back. It was also a useful exercise for class as it allowed me to connect several key elements we discussed in class to real life examples.


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