A five volume diary series details with vivid description the daily life of residents who lived in Mosul while the city was under ISIS control, and how the militants’ control over the city was both sudden and gradual. The diaries share how the city was already living under a shadow government, a situation that ISIS exploited to gain complete administrative control of the city. The author also shares how the city was purged in waves: first of former allies, and then of Christians. His descriptions show the sad reality that as these purges were happening, residents simply turned away and went on with life. This sense of community betrayal continues to haunt displaced Christians, who wonder if they are truly welcome in their community if their community would not defend them from evil.
01/29/2018 Iraq (The Guardian) – Every day, early in the morning, the former missile scientist would leave his house in Mosul. Riding buses, or on foot – he could no longer afford petrol – he’d call on friends, check on his mother or visit his sister’s family. Sometimes he’d hunt for cheap kerosene, or try to score contraband books or cigarettes. Most often, he’d meander aimlessly – a traveller in his own city.
In the evening, he’d sit at his old wooden desk, bent over his notebook, recording the day. Most of what he wrote was banal: the price of tomatoes, a quarrel with his wife. But he also wrote his observations of the remarkable events unfolding in Mosul.
Just as in any totalitarian society, the majority of residents bent their heads and went on with life
“I must live this moment and record it,” reads one entry, from August 2014, two months after the fall of the city. “We live like prisoners serving long jail sentences. Some of us will come out having finished reading dozens of books. Others will be devastated and destroyed.”
By the time he stopped writing, he’d filled five volumes. They are the handwritten diaries of a city under occupation, and a chart of how the Islamic State tried to live up to its name – by running a city.
In the early days of June 2014, the new gunmen were broadly welcomed in Mosul. Unlike the brutal and corrupt Iraqi army, they were polite. They guarded public buildings, prevented looting and dismantled the concrete barricades that choked the city.
“There were no more car bombs, no clashes and no IEDs,” the scientist wrote. “Mosul is at peace finally. They control the streets and people are awestruck. They allow people to leave Mosul, and schools are teaching government curriculums.”
There was some confusion regarding their identity. Were they Sunni tribal revolutionaries? Ba’athist officers from Saddam’s old army? Jihadi militants like al-Qaeda? These different groups had been a fact of life ever since the US-led invasion in 2003. For years, the factions had vied for power in Mosul, seeking legitimacy by waging a ruthless urban guerrilla war – first against the American occupiers, then subsequent Iraqi governments.
Indeed, some were already acting as a kind of shadow government – “taxing” businesses and extorting a percentage from every municipal contract. Those who failed to comply were often kidnapped and shot.
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