Sun, Feb 04, 2018 - Page 7 News List

How the people of Mosul subverted Islamic State ‘apartheid’

Once the Islamic State had established its authority, it ran the city using a two-tier system — privileges for ‘brothers,’ hardship for everyone else — but locals resisted

By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad  /  The Guardian, Mosul, Iraq

“IS fulfilled the desires of each one of these groups,” he added. “Those who came from the countryside were given houses in the rich neighborhoods of Mosul — something unheard-of before — the foreigners were given women and power, and the officers were given back authority they had lost after 2003.”

When Wassan began to understand how different the IS regime really was from everything that had come before, she tried to leave, but by then it was too late.

A smuggler she had exchanged messages with was caught, and female members of the hisbah (“religious police”) raided Wassan’s house, confiscated her phone and informed her that she was under surveillance.

She could not leave her job: Three days’ absence from work would get you arrested for desertion. She decided to rebel from within.

“You can acclimatize to any condition in life, and this is how we survived the rule of IS,” she said. “We had parties for female friends who got married. We had birthdays and engagement parties. We had DJs, but with very low sound. We tried to live our same old life without much change. At the hospital, we would shade the cameras monitoring us and throw parties for the children in the cancer ward.”

One day she found one of the few cake shops still open in the city and asked for a cake in the shape of Sponge Bob, a favorite character of a young patient with terminal cancer. The owner apologized: He was banned from baking any cakes with figures drawn on them.

However, as a compromise, he gave her a square-shaped yellow cake.

As she told me these stories, she pulled out her cellphone and flipped through the pictures of these parties.

Half of the children were now dead for lack of medicine, she said.

Eventually, she realized that she had to move from passive rebellion to active resistance.

“Before the start of military operations, medicines began to run out,” she said. “So I started collecting whatever I could get my hands on at home. I built a network of pharmacists who I could trust. I started collecting equipment from doctors and medics, until I had a full surgery kit at home. I could even perform operations with full anesthesia.”

Word of mouth spread about her secret hospital.

“Some people started coming from the other side of Mosul, and whatever medicine I had was running out,” she said. “I knew there was plenty of medicine in our hospital, but the storage rooms were controlled by IS.”

“Eventually, I began to use the pretext of treating one of their patients to siphon medicine from their own storage,” she said. “If their patient needed one dose, I would take five. After a while they must have realized, because they stopped allowing doctors to go into the storage rooms.”

The punishment for theft was losing a hand. Running a free hospital from her home would have been sedition, punishable by death.

If IS was a kind of Ponzi scheme, dependent on constant expansion to reward its followers, that scheme began to crumble when the Iraqi state stopped paying the salaries of government employees in Mosul.

Most stopped going to work.

Teachers had all but abandoned their schools already, after most of the students began staying home following changes to the curriculum by the new Egyptian head of the education ministry.

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