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

Those IS deemed as essential, such as doctors like Wassan and engineers working in service departments, were ordered to show up anyway, and paid one-10th of their former salary.

To keep the city running, the state became more ingenious in attempting to fill its coffers. Taxation increased. Fines were added to floggings.

Carrying prayer beads, which IS teachings considered a sin, was fined according to the number of beads. Those caught with cigarettes were sent to jail and fined the black market price of their confiscated cigarettes.

The energy ministry began diverting electricity away from residential houses and into three cement factories, which generated a reliable income. All government cars were confiscated.

Meanwhile, the US and its allies had started targeting fuel trucks traveling between oil fields in Iraq and Syria. The air raids on the city itself intensified — the elegant medical school building was bombed.

When Wassan’s hospital was appropriated by IS fighters, her secret house-hospital proved essential. More than a dozen births were performed on her dining room table. She kicked both of her brothers out of their bedrooms to convert them into operating rooms. Her mother, an elderly nurse, became her assistant.

The fall of Mosul unfolded over many months. Every few weeks, Iraqi government forces would liberate a new neighborhood. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy of IS continued to function. They collected fees, distributed basic food supplies and enforced their strict religious codes, including regarding beards. IS platoons searched for illicit satellite dishes mere blocks away from advancing Iraqi army troops.

The first thing that Wassan did when Iraqi soldiers entered her neighborhood was to go to the house of one of her cancer patients, an eight-year-old boy suffering from leukemia, put him in a car and drive him north to Erbil to try and save his life: He had not taken any medication for three weeks. A week later, the child died.

She returned to the hospital. The walls were burned and gutted. There was almost no medicine, and most of the equipment was broken.

However, the bureaucracy survived. Today, medics write names in big ledger books, just as they did during IS rule and before.

“The terror that they imposed is what gave them power, not their numbers,” said Azzam, an electrical engineer who saw IS come and go.

“In the end, we realized that there were very few of them — in our street, no more than a dozen,” Azzam added. “People say, ‘Why didn’t we do anything?’ I answer: ‘Because terror paralyzes.’”

For Wassan, the ending of IS rule in Mosul is bittersweet. After many attempts to reach Baghdad to write her board exams for medical school, she was told that her work in the hospital for the past three years did not count as “active service,” and she was disqualified.

“The ministry said they won’t give me a security clearance because I worked under the IS administration,” she said. “I am back to square one. And you ask me why Mosul is angry? Of course we are angry, if you continue to treat us as if we are all IS.”

“Now there is a different kind of civil war in the city — between those who stayed and went through all the suffering of three years, and those who left,” she said. “They say we were collaborators, and we say you didn’t suffer. Everyone wants to go back to 2014 and restart their lives from there. They can’t accept that the past three years have been for nothing.”

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