It was a few weeks after the rains failed in the winter of 2009 that residents of Shirqat first noticed the strange bearded men. They would circle like vultures around the stalls of the town’s fertilizer market, looking for people to prey on, families they could get to accept what they had to offer.
“Join us, and you’ll never have to worry about feeding your family,” Saleh Mohammed Al-Jabouri, a local tribal sheikh, remembers one recruiter saying.
Every time the climate was a little too hot or a little too cold, enough to stress the farmers and their plants, the jihadists would reappear, throwing gifts into their offerings.
When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets. When fierce winds eviscerated hundreds of eggplant fields near Kirkuk in the spring of 2012, they distributed cash. As farming communities limped from one debilitating crisis to another, the recruiters—all members of what soon became the Islamic State—began to see a return on their investment.
Two agricultural laborers in Azwai, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it farming community just south of Shirqat, ran off to join the jihadists in December 2013. Seven more from outlying villages followed a month later. By the time the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) seized this swath of Iraq—along with most of the country’s west and north—in a brutal summer-long blitzkrieg in 2014, few locals were surprised to see dozens of former fertilizer market regulars among its ranks.
“We said just wait until the next harvest, life will get better, life will become easier,” Jabouri said. “But things just weren’t getting better. There was always another disaster.”
Life for these people in third world countries is ver difficult with radical terrorist groups breathing down your neck attempting to get you to join their cause, people like this need al the support they can get to avoid having to turn and join groups like this one.