Middle East

Inside Mosul: Residents recount how IS took over their lives

Illustration of Mosul Image copyright Gerry Fletcher, BBC

A year after fighters from Islamic State stormed into Iraq's second-biggest city of Mosul, the group maintains a tight grip on its population.

Some of those who have managed to escape have spoken to the BBC about how the city fell and how the extremist group maintains control over its people.

1. Captain Seba, flight engineer: Life before the fall


The strain of the last decade of conflict on Iraq's second biggest city led to a total failure in governance, explains Captain Seba, a flight engineer and former Mosul resident.

Corruption and the abuse of power by the Iraqi army and police, he says, left people feeling powerless to defend themselves when Islamic State (IS) militants overran the city last year.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

2. Yassin, student: The day of the invasion


In June 2014, the Iraqi army abandoned their positions and left the people of Mosul to their fate. In the absence of any defences, IS fighters flocked to the city, taking over former army bases and procuring equipment left behind by deserting troops.

The resulting chaos led thousands to flee the city, as 21-year-old Yassin explains.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

3. Feras, communications engineer: Communication shut-down


IS fighters quickly claimed the takeover of Mosul as a victory for their cause and bombarded social media with propaganda celebrating the fall.

The group monopolised media and communication channels within the city, denying ordinary residents access.

Feras, a communication engineer, explains how the city became increasingly isolated and how IS used this to consolidate power and spread fear amongst those it rules.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

More on this story:

Footage reveals IS regime in Mosul

Is Islamic State winning?

How is Islamic State run?


4. Abu Nour, Christian: Persecution of minorities


The control of beliefs has been instrumental to IS's success and the group has maintained a policy of persecuting minorities within the multi-ethnic fabric of Mosul.

Abu Nour, a Christian resident of the city who now lives in a refugee camp in the relatively safer region of Kurdistan, fled after his community was ordered to convert, pay a special tax or be killed. His home and belongings have since been confiscated and claimed by IS militants.

Shrines and other holy sites that were deemed not to conform with the group's interpretation of Islam have been destroyed, despite their historical and cultural worth.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

5. Yasmine, sculptor: The reign of terror


Not content with simply governing the city, IS quickly began controlling every aspect of Mosul life. Those that did not abide by the group's new rules and laws were severely punished - and in many cases killed.

Yasmine, a sculptor from the city, says many women chose to leave rather than live under the oppressive regime. She explains how it has become impossible for any Mosul resident to live outside the group's control.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

6. Maan, army commander: The future of Mosul


The government of Iraq has failed the people of Mosul twice, argues Maan Ajaj, a Christian commander of the Nineva Liberation Army, composed mainly of local fighters from Nineva Province, where Mosul is located.

First they were let down by the deserting troops who abandoned the city to its fate last year, and secondly in failing to keep a promise to liberate it within a year. Instead, more Iraqi cities have fallen into the hands of IS fighters.

Maan warns that if Mosul is not freed from IS control soon, the group will continue to consolidate its power and residents will become more and more dependent on the group for their survival. This would make any military attempt to secure the city a battle that would have to be fought house-by-house, he says.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Note: names have been changed to protect people's identities.

Camerawork and video editing by Phil Goodwin.

Web production by Lucy Rodgers. Illustration and design by Gerry Fletcher.

Related Topics

More on this story