Iraq's race to replace documents issued by ISIS

Islamic State, trying to show the world that they can run a state, churned out millions of “official documents.”

December 14, 2016 07:48
2 minute read.
YAZIDI WOMEN and men flee Islamic State on August 10, 2014 in northern Iraq. Many were captured by I

YAZIDI WOMEN and men flee Islamic State on August 10, 2014 in northern Iraq. Many were captured by ISIS, raped tortured and executed, a crime that continues to this day.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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When the Islamic State (ISIS) took over Mosul two years ago, it began issuing its own wedding licenses and birth certificates. Now that a US-backed coalition has launched an assault to retake Mosul, Iraqis in liberated areas need new documents.

“When ISIS controlled the area, they changed the whole process,” Bahar Ali, the director of the Emma Organization for Human Development in Erbil, Iraq told The Media Line. “Now that the Iraqi government controls some of the area, they need to change their documents again.”

She said that some refugees from Mosul, northern Iraq’s largest city, who fled to Kurdistan already had to acquire new documents, and it often takes months. Others fled without documents and her organization has worked to get them passports and birth certificates. In some cases, it has taken almost a year.

Ali said that there are about two million people living in Mosul, Islamic State’s largest stronghold in Iraq. In the past two months, about 90,000 have fled, but most stayed, encouraged by the Iraqi government to remain in their homes. For the past two years, they have been living under Islamic State control. Islamic State, trying to show the world that they can run a state, churned out millions of “official documents.”

Officials in Qayyarah, a town on the Tigris River south of Mosul recently retaken from ISIS, residents have flocked to a civil court to get married, register births and replace documents. Judges said they were trying to reassert their authority after two and a half years of ISIS rule.

At the same time, analysts say that the battle to retake Mosul is going more slowly than expected. It started in mid-October and the US-backed 100,000 strong militia was able to retake dozens of villages in some cases, Islamic State fled into Mosul, where Islamic State remains firmly in control.

Earlier this week, Iraqi troops sized Salam hospital deep inside Mosul, which was believed to have been used as an Islamic State military base. But a day later ISIS launched a counter-attack, using six suicide car bombs, and “heavy enemy fire” according to a statement by the US-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces. The retreat showed that the coalition of some 100,000 troops was forced to give up some of their biggest gains.

The coalition is made up of Iraqi forces, including the army and police, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and mostly Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces.

“At the moment it’s going very slowly -- the initial movement was very quick but it slowed down due to the fact that civilians are remaining rather than leaving,” Dylan O’Driscoll, a research fellow at the Middle East Research Institute in Erbil, Iraq told The Media Line. “Now we have winter which is an issue for people in (refugee) camps and areas that have no electricity.”

He said that eventually Mosul would be freed, and that is when the real challenge for the international coalition would begin.

“There’s no turning back -- this will be followed through and promises have been made,” he said. “I am more concerned about the commitment to the post-conflict political situation after the battle ends. We will need a long term commitment from the Iraqi government and the US to reconcile and to rebuild.”

For more stories from the media line click here.

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