A Glimpse Of Life In Mosul
BBC reporter Ghadi Sary speaks with NPR's Arun Rath about secretly filmed videos obtained of harrowing conditions in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is controlled by the self-declared Islamic State.
The videos, smuggled out of the city, feature ordinary people describing and documenting their lives under ISIS rule.
ARUN RATH, HOST:
The group that called itself the Islamic State, or ISIS, took control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul one year ago. To celebrate the anniversary, ISIS just released a slick video of their exploits. But a group of activists in Mosul secretly filmed their own accounts of what life is like under ISIS. This week, the BBC aired those videos and posted them online. The BBC's Ghadi Sary says just getting those videos out of the city was a heroic act.
GHADI SARY: It took a lot of brave people. This sort of footage moved from hand to hand, from house to house, physically on a hard drive moving for weeks at a time in order to reach us outside of Mosul. And I think that tells a lot about how, first of all, filming this - the bravery in filming this and then the bravery of getting it out is impressive in the people who have done this.
RATH: Once you started to go through the material, what sort of struck you first visually about it as you were going through these tapes?
SARY: I think it was the ease that they move around in the city. I think this sort of how comfortable they are in controlling the city that struck me most. In my perception, I thought at least they would be, you know, leaving it more to locals. But actually, you could see that they act like the administrator. They act like a regime. They act like a state. And I think that's the most alarming part in what we saw.
RATH: It seemed as kind of mundane the way that they were just running institutions and had taken over.
SARY: I mean, they have cars with their banners, with their logos sprayed all over them. They have people dressed up as police officers, as military. They have their own curriculum. They have their own schools. They have their - I mean, they've turned the state - the existing state in Iraq - into what they are calling an Islamic State. And one of the residents that I was speaking to, he said something that is, you know, very expressive here. He said the so-called Islamic State would not have been able to build that state if it wasn't for the collapse of the Iraqi state in Mosul last year.
RATH: And on one of these videos, there is what appears to be a demolition of a mosque. Let's hear a little bit of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).
RATH: Do you know - can you explain what's going on there?
SARY: These mosques are hundreds and hundreds of years old. They - some of them contain shrines or are believed to contain the tombs of prophets and saints that are across all religions - so St. Jonah or, as is called - as he's called in Islam, Prophet Jonah, Prophet Seth. Other religious figures are believed to have been buried in these holy places. And for IS, their belief is a mosque that contains a shrine is not a mosque for God. And they actually destroyed so many of those, so many of Iraq's civilization based on that pretext.
RATH: On these videos, when you're actually seeing what's been smuggled out, do you see, though, evidence of the way that ISIS is trying to control communication, control information in Mosul?
SARY: Yes. You can see many of the shops, many of the Internet shops were closed down. In later times, as testimonies have told us, they were actually even looted and the materials all moved elsewhere. Communication towers were put down. But at the same time, it's the element of fear that stopped people. And you can see the element of fear in that.
We see a man following a woman who, you know, is a middle-aged woman, rather - completely covered - wearing the full cover - but her hands are showing. And we see the man following her and chastising her for actually showing that bit of hand. And I think that is the sort of thing that those videos have managed to capture.
RATH: And who - do you have any idea or sense of who organized it there? Like, who put this together, got cameras together and packaged it to get it out?
SARY: It was a bunch of local activists, civil society activists. I mean, just imagine, this is a normal city. Mosul is a city like every other one - has doctors, engineers, IT experts. It has all sort of society's spectrum living there. And these people, once they realized that IS have been there for almost a year, that help was not coming soon, they realized that they have to raise the bar, that they have to at least try and get their story heard.
RATH: BBC's Ghadi Sary - Ghadi, thank you.
SARY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.