[Marxism] Mosul: a drumbeat of indignity

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 28 06:37:59 MDT 2014

Wall St. Journal, August 28 2014
Cruelty Reigns Inside City Held by Militants
by Matt Bradley

BAGHDAD -- In Islamist-held Mosul this week, a local doctor watched 
insurgents berate and arrest a man in a public market, accusing him of 

When Islamic State militants then stoned the man to death in public, the 
doctor chose not to watch. But many others did, and not by choice. The 
fighters repeatedly screened a video recording of the killing on several 
large digital monitors they erected in the city center.

More than two months after the Sunni extremist group took over on June 
10, such displays of public brutality and humiliation have become part 
of a constant drumbeat of indignity endured by the population of Iraq's 
second-largest city, according to about half a dozen residents 
interviewed by phone.

A United Nations report published Wednesday said Islamic State 
militants, who have captured large swaths of territory across Syria and 
Iraq, hold executions, amputations and lashings in public squares 
regularly on Fridays in territory they control in northern Syria. They 
urge civilians, including children, to watch, according to the report.

Initially, many in the Sunni-majority city of Mosul were pleased to see 
Islamic State fighters send the mostly Shiite Iraqi army fleeing after 
sectarian tensions in the country worsened under Prime Minister Nouri 
al-Maliki. But that enthusiasm faded fast.

"People aren't sympathizing with them anymore," said the doctor. "People 
wanted to get rid of the Iraqi army. But after the Islamic State turned 
against Mosul, the people of Mosul started turning against them."

Residents say the rising resentment has come alongside rumors that 
homegrown militias are mustering troops in secret to overthrow the 
militants. Two such groups in particular, the Prophet of Jonah Brigades 
and the Free Mosul Brigades, have formed in the past few weeks, 
residents said.

But few people in Mosul expect the city's residents to succeed where the 
Iraqi army has failed, unless they have outside help. Unlike most 
Iraqis, the people of Mosul were left largely unarmed after the Iraqi 
army went house to house a few years ago and confiscated weapons in a 
bid to reduce violence in the city.

With pressure mounting, the insurgents appear to be bracing for the 
worst. They have been spotted placing improvised explosive devices 
around the center of the city so they can detonate them in case of a 
ground attack, said Atheel Al Nujaifi, the former governor of Nineveh 
province in northern Iraq, where Mosul is located.

On Tuesday, Mr. Nujaifi said the insurgents rigged bridges connecting 
the city's two opposing banks with plastic C4 explosives, though that 
couldn't be independently verified.

The planting of land mines and other explosives in an effort to stave 
off counteroffensives is part of the Islamic State's unfolding 
battlefield strategy. They used the tactic at the Mosul Dam, but failed 
to hold the strategic site in the face of Kurdish ground offensive 
backed by Iraqi special forces and U.S. airstrikes. They have employed 
it with more success in the city of Tikrit, where repeated Iraqi 
counteroffensives have failed so far.

A local civilian uprising against Islamic State wouldn't be 
unprecedented. In January, civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo who 
were disgusted by the group's cruelty helped more moderate fighters 
expel the group that was then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and 
al-Sham, or ISIS.

Many in Mosul are afraid to complain publicly. But those who do describe 
a blighted city that is now almost entirely void of the black-clad, 
masked militants -- many of whom were clearly foreign. They once paraded 
through the streets, boasting about their victories over the Iraqi 
military while passing out religious literature.

"Before, they were proud and they were telling people about their 
victories. 'We're fighting here, we're fighting there,'" said another 
Mosul resident. "But now they don't talk about their victories and how 
proud they are that they're fighting. In terms of morale, they are not 
like before."

Some estimate that there are fewer than 500 militants now policing the 
city of 1.7 million. Most of those who remain are local collaborators 
who are securing the streets while hard-bitten insurgents repel 
increasingly fierce attacks from the Kurdish regional forces known as 
Peshmerga and elite Iraqi units further east.

Still the paucity of policing hasn't kept the radical group from 
imposing its austere version of Islam.

Among the rules that have most infuriated the public have been limits on 
amusement. Public smoking, cards and dominoes have been outlawed. Music 
shops have been closed, except for those willing to sell CDs of the 
Islamic State's own religious chants and propaganda DVDs, restrictions 
reminiscent of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Women are made to wear face-covering veils and those who expose their 
faces are publicly beaten on their legs with wooden rods, as are their 
husbands or male chaperones. Nurses who come to work without them have 
been turned away.

"People are horrified by this," said the doctor. "People mutter 'may God 
get rid of them,' or 'may God curse them' as they walk past."

Though the Iraqi government had imposed strict rules, the Islamic 
State's police and judicial system is more terrifying and capricious in 

Those who are arrested, even for petty crimes, are never heard from 
again, residents said. They seem to disappear into the city's massive 
Badush Prison without facing trial.

Some unscrupulous residents have used the perfunctory legal system to 
settle old scores, accusing rivals and creditors of false crimes, 
residents said.

But the most pressing problems are economic. A city that used to get 12 
or 13 hours of electricity a day now only gets two to three. Some 30% of 
businesses have closed for lack of customers, and those that remain open 
are struggling, one resident said.

Without reliable imports, commodities such as milk, rice and oil are 

Hospitals are running critically low on basic supplies such as medicine 
for high blood pressure, syringes and insulin. Of the city's 11,000 
cancer patients, many have been told to stop coming for their regular 
chemotherapy sessions, said the doctor.

"Those patients who have money, they flee to Kurdistan," he said, 
referring to the semiautonomous Kurdish region nearby. "Those who don't 
have money, they're just staying in Mosul waiting for death."

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