Mosul: The capital of the Islamic State and its breadbasket

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A picture taken on April 9, 2001 shows an Iraqi man standing in front of the al-Hadba mosque built 900 years ago in the city of Mosul, 400 kilometers north of Baghdad. (Photo: AFP-Karim Sahib)

By: Delshad Hamid

Published Friday, August 1, 2014

The city of Mosul is living a nightmare under the rule of the Islamic State. The tyrannical laws implemented by the group have made living in the city unbearable, pending the promised day of liberation that remains elusive.

Mosul – Al-Hadbaa (meaning “the hunchback” in reference to the leaning minaret of al-Nouri Mosque), the City of Prophets and the Mother of Two Springs (in reference to its long spring season) are perhaps the most famous nicknames given to the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. But today, Mosul is a strong contender for a new title: the capital of the Islamic State (IS).

Members of IS, who seized control of the city on June 10, are the ones pushing for this new nickname. That, however, comes as no surprise. IS’ interest in the city was highlighted by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in his first public appearance in one of the city’s prominent mosques called on Muslims to pledge allegiance to him and his followers during the Friday sermon he delivered.

If they are serious about establishing an Islamic state, then surely the cornerstone is being laid here, in Mosul.

Overnight, black flags replaced the Iraqi flag and in the city center, the doors of the main court were shut. Forty days after IS rule began, attorney Ahmed Mazaal realized that he will not be able to go back to his job before the Islamic State’s control ends.

“There is no place anymore for those who judge by other than what God revealed,” this was the response of an armed man standing at the court’s door to Mazaal’s inquiry about the fate of his job. As the attorney walked away, leaving behind 20 years worth of memories at that court, he saw a huge banner that read Office of the Judiciary.

In the building where the banner hangs sits a religious judge who conducts marriage contracts and presides over all kinds of cases from small disputes between citizens to charges of apostasy and disbelief. He also gives rulings based on punishments prescribed by the Qu’ran, the teachings of the Prophet and the will to apply such as killing, whipping, stoning, amputating limbs and so on.

The Islamic State’s police cars patrol the streets of Mosul

To support the judicial authority, a new force called the Islamic Police was created. It patrols the streets or is deployed in important areas to maintain security and order and enforce Islamic law. The cars of the Islamic Police used to belong to the police or Iraqi officials who fled.

Raids based on intelligence information are the domain of the Islamic Security Force. Members of this force are in charge of arresting wanted suspects and confiscating the property of officials, army officers who did not defect but are still serving in the Iraqi army and every apostate and infidel.

Banning cigarettes, jeans and tight-fitting clothing

“Praise be to God who used us to save people from peril and wrongdoing.” That is what an official from al-Hisbah detachment, a supervisory force, told those present as he set a cigarette and flavored tobacco depot on fire a week after banning smoking water pipes in cafes.

Al-Hisbah’s authority includes enforcing an Islamic dress code. Businessmen and clothes-store owners were prohibited from importing jeans, and form-fitting clothing, allowing only Islamic abayas (a robe-like dress) and loose-fitting garments instead. The ban included youth clothing. Non-traditional fashion styles were banned, such as ripped jeans or garments with the flags of Western nations.

Businessman Ammar al-Khazraji was distraught over of the new decision because he imported thousands of dollars worth of goods from China that do not fit the standards of the Islamic State.

IS interferes in every aspect [of people’s lives] and tries to give everything an Islamic character. In an incident that is the first of its kind, members of al-Hisbah whipped a young man publically in al-Sarjakhana market in the center of Mosul. Everyone there heard the enforcer say: “This is what’s going to happen to anyone who dares to harass Muslim women.”

What does IS do with the money it takes from banks?

It is equivalent to major economic activity. When Iraqi forces controlled Mosul, IS collected from extortion only about $7,000,000 monthly. When the Islamic State took control of the city, it became the richest terrorist organization in the world because Iraq’s breadbasket fell into its hands. The group controls about half a billion dollars deposited in Mosul’s banks.

IS has begun taking money from banks. Informed sources revealed that the money of at least two banks have been withdrawn so far.

The source added that IS’ financial official and people associated with him impose strict control over spending. Most of the money is spent on the salaries of volunteer fighters, estimated at $60 for a fighter per month and $20 per child for those married. In addition to paying the rent of high-ranking fighters and compensation for the martyrs’ families.

But the money is primarily spent on sustaining the momentum of the battles the group is currently waging in Iraq and Syria.

It is clear that the organization includes business-minded people who invest its money. As the crisis of fuel scarcity escalates, stations selling gas imported from Turkey that is four times the regular price mushroomed. These stations are owned by the Islamic State or individuals who pay a percentage of their profits to the Islamic State.

Tightening their grip on the city enabled members of the group to seize control of entrances and exits, not just for security reasons, but to impose tariffs as well. The tariffs vary in amount. The fighters get $1,500 for every oil tank, $200 for large trucks and $100 for medium-sized trucks.

The Islamic State is also active in the field of media and propaganda. There is a media committee for the Nineveh province that is in charge of covering all activities. It posts pictures and video clips on social networking sites, especially Twitter. Besides, we can not forget the role of mosques in delivering the Islamic State’s messages and directives.

Forty days after the Islamic State’s control, Mosul has become a favored destination for hardline jihadis from around the world. The city’s hospitals are overflowing with Arab and foreign fighters wounded due to the fighting in both Syria and Iraq.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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