Militants Impose Strict New Order in Iraqi City ; Group Overhauls Aspects of Society, but Result Is Deprivation and Fear

By Hubbard, Ben | International New York Times, December 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

Militants Impose Strict New Order in Iraqi City ; Group Overhauls Aspects of Society, but Result Is Deprivation and Fear


Hubbard, Ben, International New York Times


The extremists have exerted tight control over schools and other aspects of society while doing little to provide services.

As the school year began in Mosul, the largest city controlled by the Islamic State, the extremists sent a message to teachers: Report for work or lose your jobs.

Then, directives bearing the group's black flag and hung in schools dictated the new order. Males and females were split up. Girls were to swap their gray skirts and blouses for black gowns and veils that covered their faces. Sports were only for boys. Civics classes were scrapped. At the University of Mosul, one of Iraq's top institutions, the schools of fine arts, political science and law were deemed un-Islamic and shuttered.

The teachers were in a bind. Not showing up meant defying a group that often murdered its foes. But going to work could anger the government in Baghdad, which still paid their salaries. Out of fear, many teachers complied.

Six months after the Islamic State seized Mosul, Iraq's second- largest city, its efforts to overhaul the school system reflect the limits of its progress toward building a self-governing caliphate on the land it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Although the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, presents itself as a liberating, governing force for the region's Sunnis, it has largely failed to provide civilian services, instead focusing its limited manpower on social control.

The result has been a life of deprivation, fear and confusion for the city's roughly one million remaining residents, according to interviews with 15 people, reached by phone inside Mosul, whose full identities have been withheld to prevent retribution.

Electricity has been cut off for months, and spotty maintenance has made tap water undrinkable. Residents now chlorinate it, boil it or filter it through rugs. The Islamic State trucks in fuel from Syria for cars and generators, but the fuel is expensive and fills the street with black smoke. Shops still sell food, but prices are up because the Islamic State taxes trucks entering its areas.

The salaries of public sector workers illustrate the paradox of jihadist governance. Although the Islamic State has vowed to erase the Iraqi government, it relies on Baghdad to pay doctors, nurses, teachers and others who keep civil institutions running.

Mohammed, a high school teacher, said that since the Islamic State looted Mosul's banks, one of his colleagues has crossed the front lines to Kurdish-held Kirkuk to fetch salaries. Back in Mosul, an Islamic State fighter monitored distribution, seizing cash meant for those who did not show up.

In hospitals, factories and schools, the Islamic State has appointed "emirs" to oversee operations. …

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