The recent crackdown on bird breeders stems from ISIS’ need for new fighters to battle the Iraqi and Syrian governments, as well as residents’ growing desperation, according to the security official.
“ISIS is looking to get more people to join them, they are trying to force men to do that,” he said. Most people live off farming but because of the fighting, can’t sell what they cultivate. Some are turning to breeding pigeons and doves, either to race, eat or keep as pets. Abu Abdullah’s son, for example, augmented his family’s income by selling pigeons.
The hobby, which was especially popular among middle and lower classes before the U.S. invasion in 2003, has been targeted by extremists of all stripes. Suspicion of bird-breeders stems from the fact they tend to feed their animals at the same time devout Muslims traditionally hold their first of five daily prayers.
This distrust has prompted some clerics to issue fatwas against bird breeders.