The people of the city of Jurf Al-Sakhar, in the Babil governorate of Iraq, know little about the young Mohammed Marzouk.
All they did know was that despite barely being able to complete his university education at the Faculty of Education, he showed up one day driving a luxury car that was beyond the reach of those wealthier than him.
The young twenty-something failed to secure himself a government job after graduation, as he once wished. However, he managed to land a job with the Islamic State (IS) that came with a good salary, a weapon and a luxury car. After joining the group he took up the responsibility of recruiting young people in the region where they live.
Many of the young people in Marzouk’s area see working with IS as an opportunity to appear powerful and respected by the residents who support the extremist group. IS took the city in order to cut a road in the south leading up to the capital Baghdad. The town of Jurf Al-Sakhar is also linked to Anbar province, which was seized by IS a few months ago.
Battles are taking place almost daily in the area, resulting in the destruction of homes. Empty houses are often booby-trapped by IS fighters who wait for the army to enter before detonating them, and they have managed to kill many young soldiers in the army. However, the soldiers are no longer falling for this trick as they avoid entering empty houses and if they do, they make sure to exit them swiftly.
The city continues to suffer ongoing clashes between both sides, each controlling different parts.
Marzouk attracted not only the young people of Jurf Al-Sakhar to work with IS, but also his former classmates in al-Haswah and Latifiya, two small cities in the governorates of Babil and Baghdad, respectively, and located in the so-called area of north Babil. The area is now known as the "Triangle of Death" following the sectarian battles that took place in 2006 and 2007.
Since the proclamation of the Islamic State, the group has run its operations in the Sunni-majority region in Mosul and started to attract many young people to its ranks elsewhere, as it did in Mosul. IS managed to lure young unemployed people and teenagers just as many militias have.
IS has been tempting young people into joining its ranks by offering them money, power and the chance to take revenge on the people of their region, whether Sunnis or Shiites, from another military neighborhood or militia.
Marzouk has been showing up a lot in the city lately, followed by many young people wishing for a chance to join IS. He has been changed from a deprived young man into a leader with prestige, money and the power to recruit young people at his whim.
Nevertheless, Marzouk is not aware that all sectarian and extremist militias will one day come to an end, as was and continues to be the case of many similar groups. The people will never forget who caused the death of many innocent people merely because of their religion.