Establishing a New Social Contract for Sirte

A recent edition of Dabiq, the official magazine of IS, published an interview with the current ISIS leader in Libya, Abu Mughira, shedding light on how its senior leaderships view the strategic value of Libya to its overall expansion. In the article, Abu Mughira underscores Libya’s location and resources as the key pillars for the ISIS expansion in the country, adding that all Muslims have a right to these resources, and that control over them will lead to economic breakdowns for Europe, especially Italy.

ISIS has continued to consolidate its position in Sirte, bolstering its grip on the city by enforcing a ‘city charter’ and strengthening its administrative organs like the city’s Islamic police, judiciary and treasury. The charter enjoins all the Sunni Muslim population of the city (which is essentially all the inhabitants) to unite under the Islamic State against their external enemies defined as the Shia, the secularists and the crusaders. It also declares that all Sirte’s inhabitants are soldiers of IS and establishes something akin to a social contract clearly articulating the duties and rights that bind the population and the state. ISIS has arrogated to itself all sovereign control over assets previously belong to the Libyan state. It claims that for bringing legitimate Shari’a governance all such sovereign assets automatically become the right of the Caliph, who exercises sole discretion over spending. Other rules establish the severe penalties for theft, armed assaults and extortions.

ISIS has successfully gained further buy-in by granting clemency to captured Libyan army and police officers in the city and nearby regions, particularly in Harawa and Noufaliya, only 50km from key Oil Crescent ports.  ISIS has also registered (and confiscated) a large amount of residential and commercial property and has instructed the city to use only official ISIS-endorsed public notaries and solicitors, thereby establishing a basis for tax collection and revenue accumulation. All national mobile and internet networks have been shut down effectively restricting the access of real-time information, to and from the city. A ban on satellite TV dishes also came into force this week, aiming to further isolate the population and control communications.

A Libyan press agency (Alwasat) was able to interview an alleged ISIS member, Abu Obeida al-Masri, who was arrested by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) last week. Originally from Egypt, he said that he arrived to Sirte seven months ago to join the group and was able to provide details about ISIS in the city, saying that 70% of the organization’s member are non- Libyans, with Egyptians making up circa 300 members, while Tunisian and Sudanese each have about 400 each. It is unclear if these figures can be fully trusted by they are believable because they are not obviously exaggerations.

According to Masri, a Saudi national by the name of Abu Amir Jazrawi is the leader of ISIS in Sirte. Not much about him is known. Masri also claimed that ISIS members receive a monthly salary of 200 Dinars per person, 400 for those who are married, in addition to “spoils” which are vehicles, money and weapons, left behind by those who fled the city.