Inside Mosul, Life Under ISIS, As Seen In Secret Videos

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Mosul woman and kids go for waterUNHCR-cc
One year after the ISIS take over, BBC reveals a population eager to get rid of Islamist masters
You take your wife out to what you thought was a family restaurant, far removed from the watchful eye of the puritanical rulers of your city. To get there, she has to be covered in black from head to toe, with only a narrow slat for her eyes, like any woman who wants to come out of the house. You settle down and tell her, “Honey, you can take that face mask off and relax. They’re not going to come around here.” She happily obliges, and you look forward to a nice meal in a place where you used to go when you were engaged.

But the restaurant owner hurries over to your table, frantically urging you to persuade your wife to cover up again. “They come around unannounced. If they see this, they’ll flog me,” he warns.

Welcome to Mosul, Iraq, where the Islamic State group has run the show for a year now. The scene from the restaurant was reported by the BBC, which published video smuggled out of Iraq’s second largest city. The report describes a city where the Islamic State group exerts a tight control on everyday life, even banning crayons and colored pens for kids, but a populace which is far from embracing the radical form of Islam that the group wants to impose in its “caliphate.”

It was on June 10, 2014, that Mosul fell to the radicals in the midst of their blitzkrieg across northern Iraq, and Iraqi security forces collapsed and ceded ground and US-built military hardware to ISIS. As the new masters settled in, they offered Christians a chance to convert to Islam or pay an exorbitant tax. Tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities decided to move out. Later in the summer, the places of refuge on the Nineveh Plain also were overrun, and the now-internally displaced persons (IDP) began what has become a year-long sojourn in Kurdish controlled areas, particularly Irbil.

The BBC’s secretly-filmed videos and report describe many of the things that have been reported, such as the demolition of mosques that house shrines or other “idolatrous” objects of veneration; the confiscation and marking of Christian homes;

They also describe the harsh Islamic law ISIS embraces and its methods of enforcing it.

“Since IS took the city, it has been applying the ‘Laws of the Caliphate,’ as it calls them. The minimum punishment is flogging, which is applied for things like smoking a cigarette,” said Zaid, who, like others in the report, was identified by a pseudonym. “Theft is punished by amputating a hand, adultery by men by throwing the offender from a high building, and adultery by women by stoning to death. The punishments are carried out in public to intimidate people, who are often forced to watch.”

“According to IS, everything is ‘haram’ (forbidden) and so I end up just sitting at home all the time,” said Hisham. “Even simple leisure activities like picnics are banned now in Mosul, under the pretext that they are a waste of time and money.”

Most schools are closed, and those that are open teach only ISIS ideology. Fuel is in short supply, pollution is widespread, and construction is halted. The Islamic State group collects all rents and demands a quarter of everyone’s salary. Imams have been replaced with pro-ISIS clerics, and propaganda is spread through “media points” and through one-on-one conversations on public buses.

Said the older brother of a youngster who came home from school humming an ISIS song, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the goal of this organization is to plant the seeds of violence, hate and sectarianism into children’s minds.”

Such sentiments hold out hope that the group will never be widely accepted, and, it seems, if Mosul is liberated from ISIS control, there will be much rejoicing locally. ISIS itself expects that there will be that attempt, at least, and if they are not spending on basic services, such as garbage collection, they are certainly preparing to defend the city, the report indicates.

“IS knows the [Iraqi] army will try to retake Mosul, so they’re taking precautions,” said Zaid. “They’ve destroyed the city by digging tunnels, building barricades, planting mines and bombs, and filling the city with snipers, which will make it very difficult for the army.”

Ominously, but not surprisingly, the video footage shows military equipment being hidden amid the civilian populace.

Zaid also said something that should give the former Christian residents of the city hope for returning. Mosul was home to some 60,000 Christians, the report said. Many Christian IDPs from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, traditionally the more Christian areas of Iraq, have said that it would be difficult to return because their Muslim neighbors looted or took over their properties. But this man says he would be happy to see the Christians return.

“If the government manages to take Nineveh Plains and Mosul back I will be very happy,” Zaid said. “I hope that the internally displaced people and refugees will be able to return so that we can work together to build a safe and united Iraq. IS is the enemy of humanity.”