Militants in Iraq led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria jihadist group have started imposing an extreme interpretation of Muslim law in the days since they took Mosul, according to Agence France-Presse, citing residents reached by telephone. They’re also forming Sharia courts, according to CNN.
“These militants will return us and our country hundreds of years backwards,” Umm Mohammed, a 35-year-old teacher, told AFP, “and their laws are the opposite of the laws of human rights and international laws.”
“We live in continuous fear of being subjected to new pressures,”Mohammed added. “We are afraid of being prevented from working and contributing to building the community.”
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The city, known before 2003 for its historic sites and parks and in later years as a hub for deadly violence, fell on June 10 to the militants, who subsequently overran surrounding Nineveh province and swathes of other territory.
Security forces in Mosul, a city of some two million people before the offensive, wilted in the face of the onslaught, in some cases abandoning uniforms and even vehicles in their haste to flee.
After seizing control, gunmen declared Nineveh a part of their Islamic state and issued a document outlining new rules.
They decreed in a 16-point document the prohibition of the selling and consumption of alcohol and drugs, smoking, carrying weapons, and gatherings. In addition, women are ordered to wear non-revealing clothes and keep to their homes — and “shrines” are to be destroyed. In fact all depictions of people are considered idolatrous under their extreme interpretation of Islam, and gunmen have removed some statues from the city, including those of famous poets.
Rather than taking it away they simply destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of a church, according to Abu Ramzi, one of Mosul’s Christians who did not flee the city.
Witnesses told CNN on Sunday that militants used vehicle-mounted loudspeakers to inform Mosul’s populace that it will form Islamic Sharia courts in the city.
But Ramzi seemed defiant: “We have not received any threat from any side yet,” Ramzi said. “We will not leave our houses and city even if they slaughter us.”
The militants also distributed a document to Mosul mosques ordering that they not make or publish any statement not approved by ISIS and designated a specific mosque for the acceptance of the “repentance of apostates.”
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One resident who fled said a neighbor told him that gunmen came to check empty houses in the area and find out who owns them.
“They asked about my house, my (religious) sect and my phone number,” he said.
The gunmen left a message that he had two days to return and renounce his Shiite faith, or the house would be burned.
But not all Mosul residents view the militants negatively. ”The gunmen in Mosul are decent people, they are treating the residents well,” Umm Abdullah told AFP — interesting because she was among a half million people who fled the city after the takeover.
“To be honest, I’m happy they took control of Mosul,” she said. “I see them as rebels, not gunmen, and I think they will make the city better.”