Islamic State militants parade in Mosul.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Islamic State group will begin enforcing a mandatory beard policy in its Mosul stronghold, Iraq's second largest city, which came under its control just under a year ago.
According to AFP, the new policy, which was publicized by the self-styled caliphate's "Islamic Police" via leaflets, warns of the immorality of shaving and warns of the potential for punishment if the instruction is not adhered to.
"What hairdressers do today, shaving and trimming men's beards, is an accessory to sin," says the leaflet.
"Thanks to our brothers from the Islamic Police, an order has been issued for the shaving of beards to be banned and violators to be detained."
Mosul, which prior to its capture by the Islamic State had a population of 2 million, has become a laboratory for the group's state-building efforts, a controlled environment where the jihadist organization can enforce its puritanical interpretation of Islam and influence everything from the schools' curriculum to, evidently, the hair on a man's face.
One Mosul resident, a taxi driver named Nadhim Ali, told AFP that skin rashes prevented him from voluntarily growing any facial hair, but that his appeal to the the Islamic State's religious police was rejected.
"They didn't care...one of them told me I'd better stay at home if I shaved," Ali said.
Because of the large and vulnerable civilian population in Mosul, the city has become a difficult target for the Iraqi government and their US allies to strike, but some residents of the occupied city claim that the sudden policy to impose beards on men and veils on women comes amid increased pressure by Baghdad to liberate territories held by the Islamic State.
Less than a week ago, with help from American led airstrikes, as well as the Popular Mobilization Force, an Iran-backed Shi'ite militia, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to dislodge the Islamic State from the country's Sunni heartland, the al-Anbar Province.
Al-Anbar's capital, Ramadi, was taken by the Islamic State last month after a short two-day onslaught, adding a sense of urgency to the Iraqi government's need to quickly reverse the defeat.
The region, whose entrenched tribal loyalties served as both a challenge and a vital instrument for American efforts to scale back the al-Qaida-led insurgency during the height of the Iraq war, is playing a similar role today, since it is often considered a major local recruiting pool for the hardline Sunni Islamic State.
"We all know what Daesh [Islamic State] is trying to achieve with these unacceptable laws on women wearing the veil and men growing beards," said a teacher, who identified herself as Umm Mohammed.
"They want to make everyone a human shield... With military operations [to retake Mosul] looming, they want to blend in with the population."
A figure identified as an ex-member the Iraqi security forces and current Mosul resident reaffirmed this sentiment.
"IS members lately have been using more and more regular, unmarked civilian cars. They've ditched the military vehicles and flags," he said.
"This new rule on growing beards is in the same vein. They want to hide among civilians," he said.
So far no government or Shi'ite paramilitary ground forces have attempted to retake the city, though air-strikes by US-led coalition warplanes have hit positions and strategic assets held by the Islamic State near the city.