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'Mosul Eye' Claims City 'Quietly Slipping Away' From IS


Smoke rises during clashes between Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Islamic State (IS) militants, on the outskirts of Mosul, in late January.

Smoke rises during clashes between Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Islamic State (IS) militants, on the outskirts of Mosul, in late January.

A "drastic social change" is taking place in the Islamic State (IS)-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul following the killing of captured Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh, with more and more religious residents expressing resentment and anger toward the militants, a local resident-turned-anonymous blogger has reported.

The account of life in Mosul was posted on the Mosul Eye Facebook page on February 13. Mosul Eye is the pseudonym of a local historian who has been secretly documenting IS's activities in Mosul since the militants overran the city in June. While it is not possible to verify the blogger's identity, Iraq watchers believe the accounts are credible.

According to Mosul Eye, IS's recent murder of Kasasbeh was "the main direct factor" -- though there have been others -- that led to the significant change in the attitude of religious Mosul residents toward the extremist Sunni group.

Kasasbeh was captured by IS on December 24 during a bombing raid, after his F-16 war plane developed mechanical problems and crashed. A video showing Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage was released by IS on February 3. Activists in the Syrian town of Raqqa reported that IS showed the immolation video on large screens in the city.

The objections being expressed by Mosul residents toward IS are toward the militants' theory and application of Islamic Shari'a law, Mosul Eye said.

"The big question people are asking today in Mosul is how [IS] is well-correlated to true Islam," Mosul Eye reported.

When IS first took over Mosul, local people were afraid to get involved with the militants or even mention them, but that has changed, according to Mosul Eye.

"Nowadays, people talk openly in the market about [IS] and its cruelty," Mosul Eye said.

'Not An Act Of Islam'

While talking about religion had become almost taboo in the Iraqi city over the past months, the burning of Kasasbeh led people to question IS's interpretation of Shari'a.

Mosul Eye quotes a 25-year-old university student, named only as Samir, who said that he did not sleep the night that Kasasbeh was burned alive.

"The idea that Allah, the merciful God I learned about in my childhood, is giving the pretense and justification to kill in his name, has scared me a lot," Samir was quoted as saying.

Samir said that he told everyone that the immolation of Kasasbeh was "not an act of Islam."

"I went to the nearby mosque...and I talked to the imam there. I asked him about the legitimacy of burning. The imam kept silent and did not want to give me an answer.... I left the mosque knowing that this is the last time I'll ever enter the place," Samir said.

According to Samir, an IS imam gave the sermon in the mosque the next day and told the congregation that burning was legitimate and that God had authorized it.

Mosul Eye described Samir as "one among a small but very significant population in Mosul who was struck by [IS's] brutality."

It is not only in Mosul that local people have expressed resentment and anger about the burning of Kasasbeh. Residents of other IS-controlled areas have demonstrated similar views, as have people from elsewhere in Syria and Iraq.

A young man from the Syrian city of al-Bab told Radio Free Iraq that the burning of Kasasbeh has resulted in discontent among the town's residents. In response, IS has tried to justify the punishment by distributing leaflets that cite the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah and some Koranic verses.

Radio Free Iraq also spoke to a young woman from the Idlib countryside who described the burning of Kasasbeh as a "criminal act."

Some of IS's own clerics were reportedly opposed to the burning alive of Kasasbeh. One cleric, a Saudi national, faces trial by an IS Shari'a court for voicing his objections to the immolation of the Jordanian pilot in al-Bab, according to the U.K.-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

'Their Departure From Mosul Is Inevitable'

Another shift in the attitude of Mosul residents to IS is regarding the militants' presence in the city. When the gunmen first took over Mosul, locals thought that the group would never leave, but now "people are convinced that [IS] is only staying for so long and their departure from the city is inevitable," Mosul Eye wrote.

While residents initially fled from Mosul, now they are determined to stay and say that the militants are the ones who should leave, according to Mosul Eye.

Mosul residents are engaging in forms of protest against the militants, including by refusing to attend schools and the university. In particular, parents prevented their daughters from attending school where they would be "under the control of [IS's] barbaric, uncivilized insurgents," Mosul Eye said.

Another sign of rebellion is that some Mosul residents are also smoking cigarettes, a practice that IS had banned. However, the militants failed to stop cigarettes from reaching Mosul and "smokers no longer find it difficult to get their cigarettes," the blogger wrote.

Mosul Eye concludes on a positive note: "The city of Mosul is quietly slipping away from" IS.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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