ISIS-issued documents leave Mosul residents in limbo

MOSUL • Families fleeing Mosul as Iraqi forces move in are taking their "official" documents with them but also wondering who will recognise the stamp of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

From the outside, the "caliphate" ISIS proclaimed in June 2014 could look like a lawless land run by maniacal militants on a permanent murderous rampage.

But two years later, surviving civilians are emerging from a parallel state where people were born, married and buried, and where an army of registrars produced "official" documents.

In Mosul's freshly retaken eastern neighbourhood of Intisar, Ms Umm Ahmed waved her husband's death certificate. After two years, it was only when the militants recently gave her this paper that she knew he had probably been executed.

Since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself the caliph in Mosul more than two years ago, residents have had to adapt their vocabulary to the new regime, said Ms Umm Ibrahim.

"There were no ministries, there was a 'diwan' of health and a 'diwan' of justice," she explained, using the ISIS term for its government departments.

The 49-year-old had to deal with the "diwan of justice" when her son was married. "We had to go to the Islamic court and an ISIS sheikh officiated the marriage. Nobody spoke Mosul Arabic there, they all spoke Arabic but accents were from all over."

Ms Nofa Salem and her husband registered their marriage to avoid being arrested, or even executed, for adultery. But they intentionally did not register the birth of their six-month-old daughter. Now that they have left the "caliphate", they hope she can get a birth certificate that does not bear the terrorists' black flag.

Mosul was the largest city in the caliphate when Baghdadi proclaimed it in June 2014. With Raqqa, Mosul became the ISIS de facto capital.

The group divided territory it held into "wilayat" or states that in some cases do not follow either country's existing administrative map. They ran hospitals and schools, levied taxes and distributed benefits, following principles that they claimed to be faithful to the early days of Islam. But to most Iraqis, the regime was extortion under the guise of religion.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS-issued documents leave Mosul residents in limbo'. Subscribe