Iraq crisis: "The fighters are everywhere"

By Mamdouh Akbiek
BBC News

  • Published
Isis fighter stands guard at an Iraqi checkpointImage source, Reuters

A series of attacks in Iraq has seen Sunni militants and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) seize control of major cities, oil fields and border crossings in the north of Iraq.

Iraqis have been describing their hopes and fears.

Mohamed, 28, Mosul

Things in Mosul are very normal. People are going to work and there aren't any problems. The only incident that I heard of was on Saturday when a plane dropped two missiles on an empty home. The owners had left Mosul two weeks ago.

There is a petrol problem as there isn't much fuel. Cars are queuing outside the petrol stations for hours as they only have enough fuel to operate for a few hours a day.

But the living conditions are better now than they used to be. Now all the roads are open and we can commute more easily. Before, the army used to close all the roads in one area and keep only one road open with a checkpoint that caused congestion.

The road to my work used to take around 30 minutes now it takes me 5 minutes to get to work.

I work in a restaurant and families are coming into the restaurant and you can see people walking in the street until midnight.

The fighters are everywhere. They are organising the traffic and making sure that the vendors are not selling goods at high prices.

Media caption,

Isis fighters in Mosul

The people here are ok with the fighters. The fighters have taken part in two marches since they came to the city. The last one was on Thursday and people were cheering for them.

The fighters said that anyone from the army and the police would be set free if they gave up their weapons and announced their repentance.

As a result, I have seen many former soldiers and police going to the mosques where the fighters are based to publicly repent.

Most of the fighters are Iraqis from Mosul. There are some Isis fighters and they are mostly Arabs. I spoke to one of them and he said he was from Saudi Arabia. There are also fighters from Syria and Lebanon.

The internet has been cut off from Mosul. That means our voice is blocked and we can't show the truth to the World.

Emad, 51, Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan

The food prices have been rising a little bit as we can't get some supplies from central and west Iraq.

Image source, Emad

The capture of Baiji oil refinery means cars with odd number plates can have 30 litres of fuel for one day and those with even-numbered plates the other day.

But despite this, the crisis has united the entire Kurdish population. If this happened without these circumstances, the Kurdish people wouldn't be happy - but now all Kurdish people are volunteering to fight Isis.

We have benefited to a degree from the crisis, as the withdrawal of the Iraqi army provided an opportunity for the peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] to get back some of our land that was taken by the central government in Baghdad.

We trust our peshmerga, but there are some fears that Isis could take this opportunity and be able to take control of some small villages in Kurdistan.

I think that the existence of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power, and his insistence of solving the problem by force, will extend the problems in Iraq.

The only solution is to have dialogue with all Iraqi representatives - Sunni, Shia or Kurdish - to solve the problems and fight Isis.

Image source, Tony
Image caption,
Baiji oil refinery was captured by fighters on 20 June

Jaffar, 27, Baghdad

People in Baghdad are very afraid. There are fewer people on the streets. The food and gas prices are increasing and the problem is worse, especially considering that the holy month of Ramadan is in two weeks and there is already a big demand on food.

There are some clashes in the Sunni areas where Shia people are afraid that Isis fighters will come from. Baghdad is mostly Shia but there are some Sunni areas.

People are afraid because Isis knows only how to kill.

In Baghdad there are more and more young men volunteering to fight Isis, and this is because of the fatwa from the Shia clerics asking people to fight Isis.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Shiites volunteer to fight Sunni militants in Baghdad

This is concerning, and there are lots of people holding arms, but we don't know who their leaders are and what army they are part of.

The social media channels Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are officially banned in Baghdad because they spread the Isis propaganda and it helps them organise their tactics and fights. However, we can still access them using proxies and other tools.