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The Islamic State Diary: A Chronicle of Life in Libyan Purgatory

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SPIEGEL ONLINE

For months, the Islamic State visited its reign of terror on the city of Derna, Libya -- until it was stopped by an al-Qaida offshoot. Farrah Schennib describes the horrors of daily life under the IS in his diary.

Only 300 kilometers (186 miles) separate dream from nightmare. On the coast of Crete, tourists enjoy their carefree summer holidays. But just across the water, at the southern edge of the Mediterranean in Libya, Islamists are committing murder in the name of Allah.

Very little unfiltered news is making its way out of the contested regions. Most of the images we get are from terrorists, who are spreading their chilling propaganda on YouTube and Facebook. But what is really happening inside the isolated country? What is life like there?

Since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi, the coastal city of Derna has been ruled alternately by an offshoot of al-Qaida and by the Islamic State terrorist militia. One young resident kept a diary for us for over five months. Its publication presents a not-insignificant risk to the 26-year-old. In order to protect his identity, we have changed his name and are instead calling him Farrah Schennib.

The two Islamist groups are engaged in a brutal battle for power. In July, al-Qaida fighters drove the IS extremists out of Derna, but now they are trying to return.

In this special report, you will find 22 entries from Farrah Schennib's diary. They are filled with a sense of fear and resignation. But they also show a lust for life and a desire to resist.

In order to turn the pages, click at the edge of the book or use the arrow keys on your keyboard.

How the Diary Came into Being

Derna? Very difficult! That, at least, is what human rights organizations and journalists say who are still conducting research and reporting on the ground in Libya. It's too remote, they said of the city, which became the first to fall into the hands of Islamist extremists after Gadhafi's fall and was then taken over by Islamic State (IS) in autumn 2014. But we wanted a better idea of what is happening there.

SPIEGEL international affairs reporter Susanne Koelbl and Libyan politician Salah Ngab, who fled from extremists to Germany five months ago and helped to translate this diary, established contact with photographer Farrah Schennib. The young man, a resident of Derna, is as reflective as he is courageous. In him, they found a young man who was willing to pen a diary about his daily experiences in a world defined on one side by Salafist militias and on the other by the butchers of the IS.

The three had little idea how difficult it would be to maintain contact and to impart what was happening on the other side of the Mediterranean. Over the course of five months, they had telephone conversations in which they had to scream in order to be heard. They exchanged emails and even Skyped when there was electricity. The diary ends on August 9, the day we lost contact with Schennib.

In his last entry, he wrote: "Islamic State has become a lion in a cage. ... Who knows what will happen next."

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