Mosul- After 28 months into the hardline group ISIS taking over control of Iraq’s Kokajli, east of Mosul, Ali Jassim, 56, has been able to take his first free puff of a cigarette in a very long time.
Liberated by the exertions of the Iraq Security Forces and elite counterterrorism force, ISIS extremists who once wreaked havoc over one over Mosul’s greater neighborhoods have been successfully driven out.
ISIS’ ultra-hardline rule prohibits smoking, which is considered a crime punishable by flogging and extravagant fines, in areas under control. Paradoxically, the self-proclaimed caliphate’s militants are given the opportunity to traffic banned merchandise, selling cigarettes at outstanding prices.
Until Kokajli is cleared of minefields and hazardous debris, ISF units have escorted most of the area’s displaced to fortified camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Speaking to the refugees, they would shudder out the words when remembering what it was like to live under ISIS dominance. “A living hell,” they would say.
The terror group would carry out brutal policies against all civilians irrespective of their age group, gender or wellbeing. The criminal code for ISIS rule unfairly penalizes the smallest of deeds, such as smoking and walking around past curfews.
Asharq Al-Awsat reporters were on the receiving end as another group of Mosul refugees arriving to safety camps located 50 kilometers west of Irbil.
The national ministry of transportation had provided the logistics needed to transfer citizens arriving from Mosul, after ISF units having collected them from war zones.
Counterterrorism forces in Iraq have been evacuating civilians from frontiers, so that areas can be combed post liberation and made safe again.
Displaced Iraqis go through a security screening to make sure that they have not been associated with the hardline group’s activities. Many rumors have risen on ISIS militants attempting to slip in along with the crowds of refugees.
With a break of sweat trickling down his worn-out forehead, “It feels as if I have been born again,” said Jasim.
“We have driven out ISIS terrorists, that puppeteered our lives and stripped us of our dignity on a daily basis,”
“Extortion, starvation, death and uprooting were the highlights of our broken daily life,” added the pre-ISIS’ dark age school teacher, Jasim.
Men are forced to grow their beards under ISIS management– the excruciating end of a leather whip, five days in prison and a scarce 40 dollar fine would face a man whose beard length does not meet the radical and unsanitary ISIS standard.