All Islamic, all the time, in Iraq

Local tribes on the way to pledge allegiance to Sunni Muslim extremist group, the Islamic State

After the reclusive leader of the Sunni Muslim extremist group that took over Mosul made an appearance at the city’s famous mosque, many of the extremists are boasting that Mosul is to be the capital of their new Islamic state. Evidence that they’re right comes in the form of “Islamic police” patrol cars taking locals to Islamic courts, “Islamic customs duties” levied at the border as well religious overseers in the markets telling local women their clothes are too tight. The report below is re-posted from the Niqash website.

By Khales Joumah 

Two days ago Mosul man, Abu Zahra, and his friend, another Mosul local, Abed Hamdoun, might have had to kill each other had they met on the street. But today in the northern Iraqi city that was recently taken over by Sunni Muslim extremists, they are able to shake hands. Zahra was so happy to be able to do this, he was crying.

Zahra is a senior member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State while Hamdoun belongs to another extremist group, Ansar al-Islam. Previously there had been fighting between the two groups as a result of internal politics that had to do with which extremist parent-group the fighters said they belonged to.

The reason for this extremist reunion: Ansar al-Islam has pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State, or IS, group one day after a sermon made by the IS group’s leader in Mosul. And Hamdoun was leading a group of fighters into the city to pledge allegiance publicly to the IS group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

In late June, the IS group announced that they had created an “Islamic caliphate” in the parts of Iraq and Syria that they controlled. Although they have been helped by a variety of armed groups to achieve this goal, the IS group have said that they are firmly in charge of this territory and that other groups must pledge allegiance to their leader, al-Baghdadi. Although Ansar al-Islam, the second largest militant group in Mosul, had been opposed to the IS group, now they have decided to join ranks and do as the IS group asked.

Others have also pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi. A number of unknown armed groups in the city have done so as have some tribal groups. The latter have been seen marching to the IS group’s headquarters, now in local authority buildings, with banners, chanting slogans and promising loyalty to the IS group.

The IS group has also been able to mobilise younger people in Mosul; a lot of locals aged between around 15 and 30 have stepped forward to make the same pledge.

One young Mosul man, Ahmed Habib, told NIQASH that when he asked about volunteering for IS at one of the centres, he was told that if he took the pledge he must obey al-Baghdadi up until his death. If he changed his mind later and renounced that vow, then he would be considered an apostate, the punishment for which was death. 

Recently IS group leader, al-Baghdadi, who has hardly been seen at all and who has been notoriously media-shy, was filmed by his group’s propaganda team preaching at Mosul’s landmark Great Mosque of Al Nouri. Afterwards groups of men approached al-Baghdadi.

One local who asked what was going on was told that the men were pledging allegiance too. “Up until now it seems that this pledge is voluntary,” the local man, who preferred not to give his name for security reasons, said. “The ball is currently in the local people’s court. But that can’t last forever,” he speculated. “Soon anyone who has not pledged loyalty will be considered an enemy,” he suggested.

Al-Baghdadi’s public appearance made many of the IS group members proud and they began to tell locals openly that Mosul would be the capital of the new Islamic state they had formed. All other conquests would be launched from Mosul, they said.

Whatever does happen, the IS group is certainly acting as though Mosul is their capital, especially now that their “Caliph” – al-Baghdadi – was present and that people had pledged allegiance to him.

As analysts at the Long War Journal, which reports on extremist activities and security operations against them, pointed out: “The [IS] group's caliphate declaration has been controversial within jihadist circles. A common critique has been that followers cannot and should not pledge their allegiance to a ruler they haven't even seen. In an era in which images and video are easily disseminated and broadcast, this critique carried some weight. The Islamic State's leader was rarely heard from and never seen. Only a few confirmed photos of Baghdadi existed prior to the newly-released video. But Baghdadi and the Islamic State have now answered that criticism by posting a significant video of its leader delivering a sermon with a relatively calm and assured delivery.”

Evidence of the IS group’s ongoing foundation of their state is obvious in Mosul, particularly looking at the cars with the logo, Islamic Police, that have started driving around the city. This came after the group established a number of Islamic courts.

One of the first locals to be trialled by the IS group’s Islamic judiciary was Younis Hamid, the owner of a generator who had been selling electricity to houses around his. He ended up in the IS’ court after complaints were filed against him with the Islamic Police.

Five hours after his “arrest”, Hamid was able to return home. His family celebrated with a party, during which his mother insisted on opening his shirt and inspecting him for signs that of torture. Rumours have been going around Mosul that the IS group fighters torture those they consider guilty of crimes. These rumours cannot be confirmed. Still, locals believe that they will soon start to see public floggings on their streets.

Apart from setting up its own administration, the IS group has also tried to right economic wrongs. Mosul has always been a hub for its financial affairs and a significant source of the militant group’s funding.

Now fighters from the IS group have tightened their control over the city’s entrances and exits and are extracting fees from trucks carrying goods and fuel over the “borders”. As an example, one merchant, Ali al-Hamadani, says his truck filled with tomatoes was only able to cross the city’s eastern border after its driver paid US$200.

“Islamic customs” are now levied on all goods being imported and exported, al-Hamadani confirmed to NIQASH. This includes cylinders of gas. “We now charge US$10 for each cylinder,” he said, “which doubles the price in effect”.

It has also been confirmed that businessmen working for the IS group are importing fuel from Iran and Turkey and selling it on the black market for US$1.50 per litre, three times the original price.

And fighters from the IS group have also been taking money out of Mosul’s banks – in particular the Mesopotamia and Hadba banks in the central city. Eye witnesses report masked drivers transporting cash from the two banks, under extremely tight security.

Most likely this is being used to pay the IS fighters’ salaries. Each fighter is paid a salary of US$65 per month, with married fighters getting an extra US$25 per month for each child they support.

Recently what is best described as the IS group’s Hisbah patrol has also become active in the city. Hisbah is all about doing everything as God commanded, doing what is considered good and forbidding what is considered wrong according to religious doctrine. Members of the Hisbah patrol have gone into local coffee shops and told the patrons that smoking will no longer be permitted there. They have also burned stocks of tobacco. They have also been into local clothing stores and told the owners that they will no longer be able to sell tight fitting clothing, whether for men or women. And they have also banned the public sale of women’s lingerie.

Members of this patrol roam the markets of Mosul and keep an eye on everyone coming and going.

Two days ago one of the Hisbah patrol members stopped a young man and his new bride in Mosul’s well known Sarjakhana market. In a low voice he told the husband to tell his new wife to wear decent clothing; she had too much make up on and her clothing was too tight, he said.

The young man blushed. Embarrassed he took his wife’s hand and left the market. “We will leave Mosul and we will never return as long as these people are present,” he was overheard saying to his wife as they hurried away.
Posted on Friday, 18 July 2014