With Turkish strikes on northern Syria underway, fears about the potential release of Islamic State fighters held in makeshift prisons there have grown. But as observers focus on Syria, the fate of fighters in Iraq may be more pressing. Indeed, a huge number of Islamic State members currently behind bars are Iraqi nationals. And Iraqi government policy toward them will have a direct effect on the Islamic State’s behavior, its support among the local population, and, as a result, the long-term stability of the country.
To evaluate public perceptions of how the Iraqi government is treating the detainees, we conducted a survey of 400 civilians in Mosul, many of whom had been victimized by the Islamic State, as well as 200 people living in camps outside of the city with family members with declared affiliations with the Islamic State. The survey took place between December 2018 and January.
The first set of questions dealt with who should even count as an Islamic State supporter. Both civilians from Mosul and people with Islamic State affiliations agreed that the group’s leadership and fighters should be prosecuted.