Omar Muhammed, founder of the English-language Mosul Eye blog portraying life in the Iraqi city of Mosul under ISIS rule, was interviewed by Deutsche Welle network's Arabic channel. Muhammad said that his motivation to launch the blog was that he had believed that someday people might ask what the people of Mosul did about the ISIS takeover, and he wanted "to prepare an answer to that question." He added that ISIS had threatened him with punishments "yet unknown to humanity" that would make him "pray to be killed like the Jordanian pilot." He said that he did not feel alone because "the people of Mosul were on [his] side." When asked to describe the most horrific things he had seen under ISIS rule, Muhammed described the stoning of two women accused of fornication and the chopping off of a child's hand. The interview aired on September 5.
Following are excerpts:
Omar Mohammed: ISIS would interfere in every little detail in people’s lives. For example, when a man steps out of the house… There was a section in the religious police in charge of how people dress. [They would say to men]: “It’s okay for you to wear jeans, but you must shorten the jeans [to above the ankle].” A woman must wear the niqab, but even then, she is not allowed to step out of the house by herself. She must be accompanied by a male chaperone. The sad joke is that in their view, that person is her protector even if he is her child.
Interviewer: The important thing is that he is a male.
Omar Mohammed: Exactly. They would cover the mannequins in clothing stores with the niqab.
The atmosphere was terrifying. We had to deal with people clad in black and carrying guns. Some of them even carried short swords. One of them was known as the sayyaf [“executioner”]. He would carry out the death sentences. People were afraid to confront this. They would obey. ISIS would immediately kill anyone it felt might oppose its rulings.
When ISIS entered Mosul, it did not merely bring its military force and religious rulings. ISIS brought a version of history that it wanted to force upon the city. I thought that after years of ISIS rule, people might start asking questions [that would have no answer]. I was afraid someone would ask: What happened in Mosul, and what did its people do about it? I wanted to prepare an answer for that question.
I decided that Mosul Eye would tell the direct and live history of the city, using modern technological means. Another decision I made was to write everything in English, because ISIS was not just a local force. The strength of ISIS in the media was not in the local Arab media, but in the international media. So I felt that in order to exert pressure on ISIS, and in order to expose what was going on in Mosul, we should write in English.
Interviewer: What’s the worst thing you witnessed?
Omar Mohammed: To tell you the truth, it was all bad. One of the most heinous things I have seen in my whole life, which haunts me to this day, was the stoning of two women accused of fornication by ISIS. They were stoning them, and one woman died, while the other didn’t. According to the rules of ISIS – or rather the shari’a law – if the woman does not die, she is absolved of all the things she was accused of. But they did not let her be. It was like a game for them. One man asked another to execute her, and he said to him: “Wait, give her some more time.” Eventually, they shot her in the head. This was one of the most heinous of all the heinous crimes of ISIS. Another thing I witnessed was the chopping off of the hand of a child, whom they accused of theft. He was just a child or in his early teens. It was carried out by an ISIS leader with a long white beard. He grabbed his left hand and chopped it off.
Interviewer: These things were extremely cruel, and you knew that if you were discovered, you would face very harsh [retribution] by the ISIS organization. Weren’t you afraid?
Omar Mohammed: In one of their threats, they said that I would pray to be killed like the Jordanian pilot. They said: “This is what you will pray for, but won’t get. We will kill you in a manner yet unknown to humanity.”
Interviewer: That’s terrifying. Didn’t it make you think that you should stop, or make you wonder whether it was worth doing what you were doing?
Omar Mohammed: I was afraid, to be honest, but at the same time, I felt powerful, because I convinced myself that if what I was doing did not hurt or frighten ISIS, they would not be treating me this way. They would not care what I was doing. In addition, I had the people of Mosul on my side. I felt that it was the people and me against ISIS. I felt that I was not alone.