ISIS blocks res­i­dents from leav­ing Mo­sul

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

To free from the Is­lamic State comes at a steep prices, as one newly - wed­ded cou­ple re­cently dis­cov­ered. Ea­ger to live a nor­mal life away from the harsh do­min­ion of the mil­i­tants' self-styled caliphate, the young pair is search­ing for ways to by­pass the ex­trem­ists' newly-im­ple­mented de­par­ture taxes and es­cape the ISheld city of Mo­sul.

"Do they re­ally want me to give up the house my fa­ther who spent years build­ing it to an Afghani or Chechen or to an Iraqi vil­lager so that I can leave for good? They are dreaming," the 29-year old groom said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Most of his fam­ily fled last June when a shock­ing Is­lamic State blitz over­ran Mo­sul, but he stayed be­hind to pro­tect his fam­ily home.

Fear­ing the city might sim­ply empty of civil­ians, or that flee­ing res­i­dents may join the fight against them, the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists are im­pos­ing tough mea­sures to pre­vent peo­ple from leav­ing their ter­ri­tory.

Sev­eral res­i­dents, who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press by tele­phone on con­di­tion of anonymity to en­sure their safety, said any­one seek­ing to leave must sub­mit the ti­tle for their fam­ily home or car — if the ve­hi­cle is worth more than $20,000 — to be granted per­mis­sion to leave for two weeks. If they fail to re­turn within that pe­riod, their prop­erty will be con­fis­cated.

Mar­ried ear­lier this year, they are fi­nally ready to leave Mo­sul but trapped by the tough new re­stric­tions, which were im­posed in stages start­ing last Oc­to­ber. The cou­ple, who were en­gaged be­fore Mo­sul fell, had dreamed of a lav­ish wed­ding with the tra­di­tional honk­ing mo­tor­cade tak­ing the bride from her fa­ther's home to the so­cial hall for a cel­e­bra­tion packed with friends and rel­a­tives.

"In­stead we had a tiny wed­ding party with only three cars with mod­est dec­o­ra­tion and al­most no songs or mu­sic and only few rel­a­tives at­tended," said the 22-year old wife. "What bit­ter­ness!"

The Is­lamic State group, which now con­trols about a third of Syria and Iraq, first banned all for­mer po­lice and army of­fi­cers from leav­ing for fear they would join the fight against IS-rule. Then the re­stric­tions were tight­ened, only pa­tients with ur­gent medi- cal re­quire­ments or re­tirees who need to col­lect their pen­sions out­side the city could leave. In late Fe­bru­ary, the re­quire­ment for trav­el­ers to turn over their home or car ti­tle was im­posed.

Mo­sul res­i­dents are watch­ing with keen in­ter­est the on­go­ing of­fen­sive by the Iraqi army and al­lied Shi­ite mili­ti­a­men to dis­lodge the Is­lamic State group from Sad­dam Hus­sein's home­town of Tikrit, about 200 kilo­me­ters (124 miles) southeast of Mo­sul. The re­tak­ing of Tikrit is seen as a cru­cial test for the Iraqi troops and a key step to­ward the ul­ti­mate re­cap­ture of Mo­sul.

The Iraqi forces en­tered Tikrit for the first time on Wed­nes­day, from the north and south, and by Thurs­day, they were fight­ing their way through the city, along two fronts, hop­ing to reach the cen­ter within three to four days ac­cord­ing to com­man­ders on the front-lines.

Mean­while, in Mo­sul — Iraq's sec­ond largest city — many res­i­dents feel they have no choice but to en­dure un­der the Is­lamic State rule.

"I can't leave here with my fam­ily be­cause I have no other source for living," said a Mo­sul res­i­dent and fa­ther of four who sells whole­sale cos­met­ics. "Ev­ery day when I come back home, I lock the door on my fam­ily."

The re­stric­tions ap­ply only for those wish­ing to head south into gov­ern­ment-held Iraq; res­i­dents can still travel to and from Turkey. Those leav­ing for ur­gent med­i­cal rea­sons now also have to pro­vide col­lat­eral, and can only leave if their claim is ap­proved by a spe­cial med­i­cal com­mit­tee made up of IS-loy­al­ist doc­tors.

One res­i­dent told the AP that when doc­tors in Bagh­dad changed the date of his surgery, one of his com­pan­ions had to travel back to Mo­sul to ob­tain an ex­ten­sion to his two-week leave or else he would have lost his home.

The young Mo­sul cou­ple found a taxi driver who moon­lights as a smug­gler sneak­ing res­i­dents out of the city. But the pair, both civil ser­vants, could not meet his $20,000 price tag.

Trapped in their home­town, they are chaf­ing un­der the Is­lamic State group's harsh in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic law. The wife has to cover her­self from head to toe with an en­velop­ing niqab gar­ment. When out in public to­gether, they con­stantly have to show proof of their mar­riage at mil­i­tant check­points.

"I'm fed up, I want to live a nor­mal life with my hus­band where I can go out with him at any time with­out wor­ry­ing about our safety, the mar­riage doc­u­ments and even with­out be­ing an­noyed by the niqab when eat­ing at a restau­rant," she said.

Both are now look­ing for a more af­ford­able smug­gler, say­ing the most they can pay is $5,000.

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