In Iraq’s Mosul, women desperate for news of ‘disappeared’

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A woman holds up a portrait of a missing relative, who was held captive by Daesh fighters, during a demonstration in Mosul’s Al-Minassa Square. (AFP)
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A woman holds up a portrait of a missing relative, who was held captive by Daesh fighters, during a demonstration in Mosul’s Al-Minassa Square. (AFP)
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Iraqis hold up portraits of missing relatives, who were held captive by Daesh fighters, during a demonstration at Al-Minassa Square in Mosul. Activists have collated 1,820 names of men and women who have disappeared. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2018
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In Iraq’s Mosul, women desperate for news of ‘disappeared’

  • “Instead of being free today and compensated, they are being kept behind bars”
  • Security officials said the families of all those arrested in Mosul have been informed

MOSUL: Every Friday since Mosul was prised from the Daesh group’s clutches last July, women gather in the Iraqi city’s Al-Minassa Square, desperate to learn the fate of husbands and sons.
Dressed in black, with children in tow and brandishing photos, some fear their men have fallen victim to a cruel double jeopardy.
They had been imprisoned by or forced to work for Daesh, only for Iraqi forces to suspect them of collaborating voluntarily with the militants — and lock them up.
That is what some mothers and wives fear, faced with official silence.
“Instead of being free today and compensated, they are being kept behind bars,” said 80-year-old Umm Abdullah, tormented by her son’s disappearance.
She fears her child will be falsely accused, 12 months since Iraqi forces expelled Daesh.
When the militants seized Mosul in 2014 after a lightning offensive, men working in the security forces or in other state jobs who did not run away were left with nowhere to hide.
Seen as representatives of an “apostate” state, many of them were forced to publicly repent and swear allegiance to Daesh.
The women of Al-Minassa resemble the Mothers of the ‘Plaza de Mayo’ who relentlessly pursued justice for sons who vanished under Argentina’s 1976 to 1983 junta.
Standing on the steps of the square, 38-year-old housewife Shaima believes she knows what happened to her policeman husband.
Shaima, 38, said militants raided the family home and abducted her husband on November 25, 2016, a fate that befell many of his colleagues.
When Iraqi troops battled to retake the city, “he was used with other prisoners as human shields,” she said.
Soldiers then arrested him “because he didn’t have identity papers and had grown a thick beard during his detention by Daesh,” said the mother of six, fighting back tears.
When outgoing prime minister Haider Al-Abadi visited Mosul in March, the women tried to approach him and ask about their men, but bodyguards pushed them back.
Security officials said the families of all those arrested in Mosul have been informed.
But Shaima said she has had no official word and resorted to other channels. She had “received information ... he is detained” at Baghdad’s Al-Muthana airport, along with suspected terrorists.
Abu Luay, a 56-year-old unemployed man, spends his time looking for his two sons, snatched from their home by Daesh fighters on October 4, 2016.
The sons, Luay and Qusay, have never reappeared.
After several months of investigating, “we’re sure they’re detained by security forces, but we don’t know why,” Abu Luay said.
Not all those who had been held by Daesh survived the brutality of its rule.
“Many of the disappeared were executed by IS and their bodies thrown in the ‘Khafsa’,” said human rights activist Sami Faisal, referring to an area that translates from Arabic as the “abyss.”
The site, a sinkhole that folklore says was left by a meteor, could be one of the biggest mass graves in Iraq, as it was a Daesh execution ground.
Collating testimony from families, Faisal said he has compiled 1,820 names of men and women who have disappeared.
Many on the list were soldiers, civil servants, journalists and activists from Mosul and the surrounding area.
A separate list of missing Yazidis comprises 3,111 names, although the number fluctuates as members of the minority re-emerge alive after having years enslaved by Daesh.
Deciding when a person can be declared dead is an issue which the authorities are tackling.
The Iraqi judiciary has ruled “two years without news of a person who has disappeared in a context of terrorism sufficient to officially pronounce their death.”
Mosul’s mayor, Zoheir Al-Araji, said the justice ministry registers complaints by relatives of the disappeared.
The cases go “to the government and security authorities to investigate their fate,” he said. “But so far without results.”
Bereft of her two sons, Umm Luay tries to take some solace from photos and memories.


Daesh terrorists in Syria face two choices: Surrender or death

Updated 19 February 2019
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Daesh terrorists in Syria face two choices: Surrender or death

  • UN expresses concern over safety of 200 families
  • Thousands of people have streamed out of Daesh turf in recent weeks

OMAR OIL FIELD, SYRIA: Militants defending their last dreg of territory in Syria will be “killed in battle” if they do not surrender, a Kurdish-led force said on Tuesday ahead of a final showdown.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they are trying to evacuate civilians trapped in the last half-a-square km of Daesh’s once-sprawling “caliphate” before storming the terrorist holdout.

“We are working on secluding and evacuating civilians and then we will attack. This could happen soon,” spokesman Mustafa Bali said, declining to provide more details on the operation.

Daesh militants “have only two options, either they surrender or they will be killed in battle,” he said. Daesh declared a “caliphate” across large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.

A small hamlet of buildings in the village of Baghouz is all that is left of the proto-state, which at its height spanned an area the size of the UK.

The UN on Tuesday expressed concern over “the situation of some 200 families, including many women and children, who are reportedly trapped” in the Daesh holdout.

“Many of them are apparently being actively prevented from leaving by Daesh,” the UN said in a statement. The frontline in Baghouz was quiet on Monday afternoon. Tattered buildings and the twisted skeletons of cars dotted the side of the road.

At the entrance of the village, the SDF had turned an embattled building into a temporary base.

Thousands of people have streamed out of Daesh turf in recent weeks, but no civilians have made it out in the past three days.

Those that managed to escape have been ferried on trucks to Kurdish-held camps for the displaced to the north.

The International Rescue Committee said on Monday that 62 people, mostly children, had died on the way to the Al-Hol camp or shortly after arriving in past weeks.

Beyond Baghouz, Daesh still has thousands of fighters and sleeper cells scattered across several countries.

In Syria, it retains a presence in the vast Badia desert, and the terrorists have claimed deadly attacks in SDF-held territory.

An SDF official on Monday said that an announcement will be made this week.

“In a few days we will announce a great victory over the largest terrorist organization that waged war on the world and wreaked chaos and death everywhere,” Zeidan Al-Assi said in a statement.

Trucks entered Baghouz to evacuate remaining civilians on Tuesday, Reuters quoted an SDF source as saying. A Reuters witness in a location near Baghouz saw dozens of trucks moving along a road toward the village.