Mosul: Smuggled diary reveals life of fear under IS

By Nafiseh Kohnavard
BBC Persian

media captionMosul diary: 'I feel like I'm living in a prison'

"Ahmed" was an engineering student at Mosul University when so-called Islamic State (IS) militants stormed into the city in June 2014. From that day, everything changed.

The university shut and life became a daily struggle to survive. This summer, after two years, Ahmed (not his real name) managed to escape. In the weeks before, at great personal risk, he secretly kept a diary of living in the shadow of death under IS.

Ahmed has shared his diary exclusively with the BBC. Here are some excerpts documenting one week.

Monday: 'They kill anyone'

image copyrightIllustration by Morteza Rakhtaala

Today I met a smuggler. In the next few days I'm hoping to escape. I'm a bit scared because the road isn't 100 per cent safe. If we meet any Isis [IS] fighters along the way we'll be in big trouble. But we have people there. They will give us a signal when the road is safe. So wish me luck!

Life under Isis is not good at all. Men aren't allowed to cut their beards and they have to shorten their trousers. You shouldn't smoke cigarettes. Women have to wear the niqab and cover their hands. In addition they have banned the internet at home and phone calls.

They're stopping people watching TV because they say most satellite channels are against Muslims. But everyone knows it's because they want to cover up their losses. Anyone who breaks the rules is beaten and goes to prison. You have to pay money to get out.

When Isis took over Mosul in 2014 no-one knew who they were. We thought they were tribal militants resisting the suffering caused by the Iraqi army. But then they proclaimed the caliphate and started imposing strict laws on people, and discontent started spreading.

Now everyone knows who they are. They're all about personal interest. They kill anyone who opposes their ideas. They've destroyed the historical monuments in the city. Now people have rejected them and are waiting for the Iraqi army to liberate them.

Tuesday: 'No work, no pay'

image copyrightIllustration by Morteza Rakhtaala

This morning my friend went out shopping and saw Isis executing three people because they'd been talking about Isis losses. It's really shocking to hear news like that. They're robbing people of their lives for trivial reasons. They are twisting the word of God for their own interests.

In the past I used to go out with my friends to the cafes, to play football, or study together. But now most of the places we used to go are shut down. When I go out I try to be careful and not to go too far from home or to public places because it's unsafe there.

Today my mother made some delicious cookies for us. You can sometimes buy the ingredients on the market, but they're expensive. People here survive on local products which they grow themselves. It's quite easy to get vegetables but it's very difficult to get flour, sugar and rice because it's expensive. People don't have money. There's no work, no salaries.

Wednesday: 'Taking our houses'

image copyrightIllustration by Morteza Rakhtaala

Today I really missed my university. I used to go there and see my friends. But after Isis came everything changed. They made it a meeting place for their leaders. They also used the labs and warehouses to produce and store booby traps. As a result, coalition aircraft bombed all the main buildings and the university was reduced to rubble. I was so sad that day.

Isis have begun to confiscate some of the houses in our town because the owners have left. They've given them to their fighters. They exploit the presence of civilians, to stop them being targeted by coalition aircraft.

Many homes have been bombed by the coalition after they were seized by Isis. This makes people worry and despair. Isis don't care about people. On the contrary they wish for coalition air raids in order to incite people against the coalition. But people know this now.

Thursday: Hiding phones

image copyrightIllustration by Morteza Rakhtaala

Isis have been carrying out house-to-house searches. They're looking for mobile phones. They're trying to find out who is in contact with the coalition. They arrested a man because they found a phone in his pocket.

I have taken measures to hide my phone in a secret place. We don't feel safe even inside our homes. If they find a phone in your pocket, you are dead. When you carry a phone in your pocket you feel like you are carrying a nuclear weapon.

Friday: 'Really tense'

image copyrightIllustration by Morteza Rakhtaala

Today I went to the mosque. Isis tried to persuade people to join them, but no-one cares. Today I felt confused. Do I stay here and wait for the arrival of Iraqi forces, or do I risk it and escape from Isis?

I want to escape but I won't be better off, because Iraqi forces will put me in a camp. No-one is allowed to leave the camp unless you have a sponsor - either a Kurd or someone from the government.

The situation is really tense here now. I hope that in the coming days the road will be safe and I will be able to escape from Isis because I can't bear the situation here any longer.

Days after this final diary entry Ahmed managed to escape. He is now living in another Iraqi city and is resuming his studies. His family remain in Mosul.