Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

Iraqis wait at the Nineveh governorate building in Iraq's second city of Mosul to resolve issues related to their identity documents. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

  • During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers
  • When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract

MOSUL: When Shahed was born in 2015 her father tried to notify Iraq’s civil registry. The problem was, their city of Mosul was held by Daesh group and the office had been shut.

Three years later, 39-year-old Ahmed Aziz has yet to officially register his daughter’s birth, the certificate for which bears the seal of the so-called caliphate.
Under the late summer sun, the taxi driver braves a long queue outside Mosul’s reopened civil registry, hoping that by the end of the day Shahed’s name will finally appear in state records.
The little girl was born just a year after Daesh swept across the country, seizing swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
“The civil registry was closed,” said Aziz, holding the IS-stamped document issued by a hospital in Mosul.
But since Iraqi forces ultimately regained control of the city in July 2017 after a bloody months-long campaign, residents have flooded the city’s reopened offices.
Thousands of children like Shahed had been born under Daesh rule, and the extremists had systematically blown up civil offices and archives.
“I saw this massive rush to get to the public offices, so I preferred to wait a bit before going there too,” said Aziz.
As a result, his daughter does not yet officially exist.
During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers.
Some lost their identity documents as neighborhoods turned into battle zones, others as they fled the violence.
Many of those who remained were given documents from Daesh’s proto-state — ministries and courts created by the jihadists to register births, marriages, deaths and trade agreements alike.
None of that paperwork has been recognized by Iraqi authorities.
When Zein Mohammed got married in 2014, he and his soon-to-be wife had to present themselves at an IS court to seal the deal.
What should have been the best day of the now 29-year-old civil servant’s life was instead a test.
“I appeared in front of the judge with my fiancee — she was covered head-to-toe in black,” he told AFP.
Under Daesh rule, Mosul’s residents were forced to bow to the jihadists ultra-conservative demands.
Women were compelled to fully cover themselves in black veils and long robes, and civil cases were heard by courts that dealt out death sentences and corporal punishment for “sins..”
“The judge issued us a marriage certificate bearing the IS seal,” said Mohammed.
When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract.
Now, packed in among the crowd outside Mosul’s civil registry, Mohammed is hoping to finally regularize their marital status.
Iraqi civil servants are working around the clock to meet the massive demand, compiling files, verifying identities and registering official documents and certificates.
It is a titanic job, often slowed due to additional safeguards imposed by Iraqi security services in the former IS stronghold.
To weed out fake IDs and spot jihadists seeking to slip through the cracks, “intelligence services check each document,” head of Mosul’s registry office General Hussein Mohammed Ali told AFP.
But the added security measures have not hampered progress.
“More than a million certified documents and more than 2,000 passports have already been issued,” he said.
Mustafa Thamer, a 23-year-old student, is applying for his first passport even though he has no plans to travel soon.
“We say we must have a passport so that we can leave whenever we want,” he told AFP.
“We lived under IS occupation and we no longer trust the future of the city,” he said.
“Anything can happen in Mosul.”


Italy’s Libya talks lay bare deep divisions

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomes Libya's Prime Minister Al-Sarraj. (Reuters)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Italy’s Libya talks lay bare deep divisions

  • Two days of meetings in the Sicilian capital Palermo saw some delegates refuse to sit side by side
  • The 2019 talks are intended to give Libyans a chance to spell out their vision for the future, with elections slated for a few months later

TRIPOLI: Italy’s Libya talks this week laid bare deep divisions between the key power brokers, threatening attempts to resolve the country’s ongoing crisis, analysts say.

Two days of meetings in the Sicilian capital Palermo saw some delegates refuse to sit side by side, while a meeting held on the sidelines sparked a diplomatic spat.

“The dynamics between the four Libyan delegations attending the Palermo conference regrettably show that the rifts are still very deep,” said Claudia Gazzini, a Libya analyst at International Crisis Group.

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar showed up, only to snub the main conference and organize separate talks with international leaders.

Such a move was “a slap in the face to the Libyan politicians at the conference,” said Gazzini.

Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) holds much of eastern Libya, held a meeting with representatives of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, France and Russia.

One of his main rivals, UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, also attended the “informal talks,” but Qatar and Turkey were not invited.

Their exclusion prompted Ankara to pull out of the main conference in protest.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari later accused Turkey and Qatar of traveling to Palermo “to protect the interests of the terrorist groups which they are supporting in Libya.”

Fragility

Khaled Saleh El-Kuafi, a professor at the University of Benghazi, said the outcome “illustrated the extent of the crisis, the divisions in Libya and the fragility of the situation.”

Haftar “succeeded in being the star of the conference” by refusing to meet some of his rivals and sidelining Turkey and Qatar,” he added.

The Palermo talks followed a Paris meeting at which Libyan leaders agreed to prepare for elections this December. Such a timeline was widely viewed as unrealistic, however, and preparations for polls have now been pushed back to 2019.

For Khaled Al-Montasser, a professor at the University of Tripoli, international meetings cannot succeed “while the international parties are putting the Libyans under pressure and while they put forward solutions to the crisis which suit themselves and them alone.”

It should be up to the Libyans, he said, to “agree on the subjects that they must discuss.”

But, as Montasser noted, the Libyan leaders themselves are “not ready to accept each other and to tolerate differences of opinion.”

Just as in May, the top Libyan invitees to Palermo were Haftar, Al-Sarraj, who heads the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, the eastern parliament’s speaker Aguila Salah and Khaled Al-Mechri, speaker of a Tripoli-based upper chamber.

But the Italy talks were not really focused on improving relations between the rivals, according to Libyan analyst Emad Badi.

It was instead “an attempt by Italy to both react to the French initiative and to reposition itself as a power broker,” he said.

Despite the conference being viewed as a failure by numerous analysts, some have underlined the importance of meetings organized by the UN a few hours before the formal talks opened.

Those discussions focused on economic and security issues in Libya, where residents have seen their currency’s value plummet and endured years of violence.

Weeks of clashes in September between rival militias in the capital Tripoli killed at least 117 people and wounded more than 400, prompting Al-Sarraj’s government to introduce reforms.

The UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, this week welcomed the participants’ backing for the new measures and their “unanimous support” for a national conference early next year.

The 2019 talks are intended to give Libyans a chance to spell out their vision for the future, with elections slated for a few months later.

However, “numerous Libyans are still not certain of the format and aims of that conference,” said Crisis Group’s Gazzini.