The horror of life in Syria under the so-called Islamic State was opened up to the world this week when western journalists visited the northern town of al-Shadadi, recaptured recently by Kurdish-led forces.
One resident pointed out makeshift gallows.
Elsewhere amid the destruction, bombs and explosives are found in the street and in buildings.
Many of the abandoned houses contained bunkers and escape tunnels.
The team from Britain’s Sky News was also shown a hotel said to have been used by the extremists to assault women.
One witness said they risked torture with electric prods for showing too much skin.
Ahead of indirect peace talks due to resume on Monday, the Syrian government has ruled out discussions on a change at the top.
It said it drew a “red line” around President al-Assad’s position.
The Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the Geneva talks would depend on the opposition’s attitude – but they were deluded if they thought they could take power.
“Our understanding of the transitional period is a move from the existing constitution to another constitution. And from the existing government into another government that might include other parties,” he said in Damascus.
But among the rebels’ demands are that Assad have no role in any new government.
The UN is due to host renewed negotiations between the Syrian government and a main opposition group, more than two weeks into a fragile truce.
The opposition group the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said before al-Moallem’s comments that it would attend the Geneva talks. But it has played down the chances of a deal.
Other groups opposed to the government in Damascus that are not part of the HNC are not included in the talks.
Last week the HNC said the truce was close to collapse because of attacks by the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia.
Both sides have accused each other of violating the “cessation of hostilities”.