Vice reports: When the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overran Iraq’s second city of Mosul, many feared sectarian massacres and brutal violence from the extremist Sunni militants. As many 500,000 people fled the city on the first day, according to the UN.
Now, many citizens have returned. Instead of imposing its extreme interpretation of Islamic law and carrying out threats of killing Shiites wherever it found them, ISIS has remained more moderate. As a result, it has found support among local residents, some of whom told VICE News that they are happy with life under their new leaders.
At the borders between Iraqi Kurdistan and the newly seized ISIS territory in Northern Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga fighters describe the militants as terrorists and are obviously uncomfortable with their new neighbors.
Nevertheless, on the road from Erbil to Mosul, things have remained quiet between the forces. It’s only 500 yards from the last peshmerga position to the first ISIS checkpoint. While that’s as close to Mosul as it’s sensible to get for an obvious non-Iraqi with a healthy aversion to kidnapping, local residents travel easily between the two territories. Traffic flows both ways and those people going in and out say the militants manning the ISIS checkpoint aren’t ruthlessly hunting down non-Sunnis. A quick glance inside and each car is waved on. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Two weeks after Sunni insurgents overran northern Iraq’s biggest city Mosul, shrines lie smashed, non-Sunnis have fled and armed men have warned women not to walk in the streets unescorted.
Residents who welcomed the expulsion of the Shi’ite-led government’s soldiers and police from the mostly Sunni city are now asking what life will bring under the al Qaeda offshoot calling the shots, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ahmed Khalil, an engineering student in Mosul, said the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had felt like an occupying force, and he was glad to see it go. But the rise of ISIL has put him on guard.
“The first impression was like the prison gates were broken, and we started to taste freedom,” Khalil said.
“But after the spread of too many armed groups, including al Qaeda, I’ve gotten cautious about what’s next.”
His concerns were repeated in over a dozen interviews with Mosul residents, although most said ISIL had acted with more restraint than in Syria. Men still smoke in the streets, women drive cars, and no one can confirm any beheadings or floggings.
Yet there has been plenty to presage a different future. After Mosul’s fall, ISIL issued a “city charter” outlining its vision: Tobacco, drugs and alcohol would be banned, “pagan shrines” destroyed, and women were to dress modestly and stay home.
Last week militants got to work, smashing statues of musicians and poets and desecrating the tomb of a 12th century philosopher. [Continue reading…]