Monday, December 11, 2017

Witness To Evil : Mosul Eye

"I am leaving. I am writing this for the history because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal."
"My job as a historian requires an unbiased approach, which I am going to adhere to and keep my personal opinion to myself. I will only communicate the facts I see."
"I am not a spy or a journalist. I tell them [foreign intelligence agencies] this. If you want the information, it's published and it's public for free. Take it."
"I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done."
"It's like a death game and one mistake could finish your life."
"IS [Daesh] is forcing abortions and tubal ligation surgeries on Yazidi women."
"The forensics department received the bodies of 23 IS [Daesh] militants killed in Baiji. They had no shrapnel, no bullets, no explosives and the cause of death does not seem to be explosion. It is like nothing happened to the bodies. A medical source believes they were exposed to poison gas."
"43 citizens were executed in different places, this time by gunfire, which is unusual because they were previously beheadings. A source inside IS [Daesh] said that 13 of those who were executed are fighters and they tried to flee."
"[I am fighting: writing this blog on two fronts] One against ISIS [Daesh] and the other against the rumours. Trying to protect the face of Mosul, the soul of Mosul."
"I had to run away with the proof that will protect Mosul for years to come, and to at least be loyal to the people who were killed in the city."
"I think I deserve life, deserve to be alive. I can't be anonymous any more. This is to say that I defeated ISIS [Daesh]. You can see me now and you can know me now. I am Omar Mohammed. I am a scholar."
Omar Mohammed, Mosul resident, scholar, documentarian, historian, witness
He remained anonymous for more than three years, documenting Islamic State’s atrocities and the destruction of his city as the blogger Mosul Eye. Omar Mohammed, now in Europe, is done hiding.   | Photo Credit: AP

He had just completed his master's thesis, was prepared to take up his profession as a university teacher, and then his life changed. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant happened. And the courageous Iraqi military stationed in Iraq's second largest city to protect its two and a half million residents fled en mass in a panic of terror, leaving behind all the military equipment, the vehicles, the rockets and the weapons that the United States had lavished on the nation's military after training it in their use. ISIL was grateful, happy to take possession and to use everything to their advantage, including the $1-billion in Mosul's treasury.

This young man in his mid-20s felt compelled to record everything that he witnessed, to make note of the personal narratives he extracted through conversations with residents of Mosul, with members of Islamic State, with anyone who would speak with him, casually, person-to-person, ventilating opinions and describing events and experiences to augment his very own. All to be collected, carefully notated and dated, placed for safekeeping for the future. He would write a fist-person account on all of this carefully assembled data, three years-worth.

But in the meanwhile, he would keep the world informed of what was happening day-to-day in his city that was his city no longer, but a city in pain while being transformed to a large extended terror camp where the inmates had stern rules to follow and sterner punishments when they failed to follow those rules. He witnessed beheadings and stoning deaths, garbed in the requisite long hair and beard. And then in the quiet calm of night in a darkened room addressed a computer and wrote a blog about the misery that had become Mosul.

He was, this man, anonymous but for the sobriquet, 'Mosul Eye". A documentarian, this witness to archaic, barbarian history. He recalled their arrival, black-clad men with a black flag driving new American trucks, all-terrain vehicles. In the fighting they were merciless, a well-calibrated killing machine which hung enormous banners in the streets, over buildings trumpeting their arrival. Circulating the vital information that all school curricula were to be based on strict Koranic interpretation.

Mosul Eye was busy, there was ample material to document, and just as much to blog about; that Daesh compiled lists identifying women said to be prostitutes of whom around 500 in the first months were stoned or shot. Then came the men felt to be gay who were flung from the tops of buildings while Shiites, Christians and Yazidis fled their city, the once-peaceful city where various religions lived in peace together. The Sunnis  accused of spying were whipped, put to death; failing to attend Friday mosque identified them as apostates.

A 14-year-old boy was beheaded before a crowd; attendance mandatory; a dozen others arrested for smoking cigarettes and flogged. Young men from Mosul were convinced. They lined up to join ISIL. A child accused of stealing had his hand severed, as a gift of repentance, he was assured god would be pleased. Came a time when it seemed a good idea to put together computer hard drive documenting and dating cause of death, perpetrator, neighbourhood and ethnicity, his notebooks, his maps, a few books -- and leave. A smuggler was paid $1,000.

Alarmingly, he discovered the pickup point close by Raqqa. But he ended up in Turkey after all, and from there Mosul Eye posted to WhatsApp and Viber, to Facebook where he communicated with friends with inside contacts. And he kept posting to his well-read blog. He was unable to keep up with the 2016 death-acceleration. He went to Twitter. Finally he got sanctuary in Europe. And he kept writing. But apart from the blog posting he began writing his dissertation on 19th Century Mosul. And then, Mosul was free and ISIL was gone.

And the future became a large, quivering question mark hovering over his city of birth. Omar Mohammed, the scholar.


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