Stoning, cutting off limbs and public executions. An Iraqi Kurdish asylum seeker recounts how Islamic State terrorized his home before he was able to escape
Abdullah is 32 years old. When ISIS took over his village, he lived in an Arab area south of Mosul with his 22-year old wife and two children. Before the takeover, Abdullah worked as an ambulance driver, and he was in charge of his family’s land.
“The day ISIS took over our town, hours before the takeover, the Iraqi army abandoned their position, and left all their weapons to ISIS without a fight. They abandoned their American Abrams tanks, their armored cars and their heavy guns,” Abdullah says. “All the weapons of the 21. Division, 15000 men strong, were stationed a few kilometers from our village.”
A regime of terror in town
As a resident of ISIS territory Abdullah was asked to stay in his job with a reduction of his salary by 30%. The Iraqi state would send him his salary of 720.000 Iraqi Dinar (650 US dollars), and then ISIS would cut 200,000 ID and hand him the remaining 520,000 ID.
The men of ISIS talked soft to win the hearts of the populations at the beginning.
“Few days later they showed their ugly face. They started accusing people of being collaborators with the Iraqi State, and the punishment for this was death by the sword,” Abdullah recounts of the new legal system set in motion in his village.
“They would call all the inhabitants of the village and let the execution take place in public. Everyone had to watch, and no excuse was accepted.”
Following the rules of the new town chiefs, theft was punished by cutting of the hand of the perpetrator and immersing what is left of the arm in hot boiling oil to stop the bleeding. If a married man or woman was found to have committed adultery, she was to be stoned to death in public – an unmarried person would be lashed in public.
“My wife had mental problems because she was forced to watch these acts of brutality,” Abdullah says. He saw four brothers executed with a bullet in the back of the head in public when they were charged with collaborating with the government of Baghdad.
Double standards under the new ISIS law
The new town rules were contradictory and hypocritical, Abdullah recounts. Smoking cigarettes and alcohol was forbidden, and offenders would be punished in public by lashing. But people who bought their cigarettes and drinks from the ISIS’s own bootleg shop at many folds of the actual price would be safe from punishment.
Likewise, ISIS’s men could exchange enslaved women and have sex with them without being prosecuted for adultery.
Dangerous missions for an ambulance driver
As an ambulance driver, Abdullah was given the task of delivering injured ISIS fighters to Mosul hospitals, which was a long drive from his village. Later on he was ordered to accompany the fighters on the battlegrounds.
”The jet fighters were roaming over our heads, and drones were watching and shelling ISIS in the area. I was in danger of being killed, and that motivated me to escape,” Abdullah says. “My situation is very bad now, as both the Kurds and Baghdad governments consider me an ISIS collaborator. I could not go to them with my concerns, so the safest option was to leave Iraq”.
En route to Sweden
One of ISIS’s men worked smuggling people out of Iraq. On the 8th of October 2015, Abdullah agreed with a smuggler that he was to get Abdullah and his family safely out of Iraq at the price of 18.000 US Dollars.
In two and a half day the family fled Iraq through Syria to Turkey. Once in Turkey, another smuggler agreed to get the family to Europe at the even higher cost of 20.500 US Dollars. They were to cross over to Italy from Turkey by the sea in a container shipped by boat. The container held 35 men, women and children.
“All were given some kind of tranquilizer with fruit juice when they were in the trailer,” Abdullah recounts. “The journey took three days, and the situation aboard was horrible. The smell and stink was indescribable – from seasickness, urine, feces…”
From Italy, Abdullah and his wife took their children to Hamburg by bus, and from there they bought train tickets to Malmo in Sweden. On the border to Denmark they were stopped by the Danish police and ended up in Sandholm where they applied for asylum. Now, Abdullah and his family stay at Center Kongelunden, and hope to be allowed to start a new life in peace.
Abdullah is a borrowed name. New Times keep his real name for the safety of the rest of his family still in Iraq.