Suha Awda – Yalla – Mosul
7-year-old Hamoodi refuses to eat the oily food prepared by his mother. The out of character rebellion is in response to his father selling his Playstation in return for a bag of rice, a few kilograms of vegetables and some halal meat.
How do people of Mosul live?
“Going to the markets to get the essentials for the family has become a near impossible task because unemployment is widespread and salaries have been suspended permanently. People have sunk into debt,” Says Hamoodi’s father, nicknamed ‘Mr Engineer’ by his neighbour.
45-year-old Mahmood was working as an engineers’ team leader and living a decent life before ISIL. He has been out of work since they took control of the city in June 2014, but remained in Mosul. His salary was stopped by the Iraqi Government over a year ago as it believes the salaries of Mosul civil servants was going directly to ISIL. The out of work civil servants who continue to live in poverty in Mosul deny that this was the case.
“I haven’t got anything left at home to sell, even my house, I pledged [pawned] it to my Daesh [ISIL] neighbour when my wife needed an operation,” he says, stroking his chin and long beard.
ISIL has been in control of Mosul for over a year and a half, and the shortage in cash has led to an increase in prices. Poverty levels were at almost 33% in March 2014 according to the Statistics Centre in Nineveh.
The liberation of Sinjar last November, which connects Nineveh to Al-Raqqah through Al-Hassaka in Syria, is another factor in rising prices because of the increase in transport costs. Traders and truck drivers now have to carry out their activities through the south of Mosul near the town of al-Ba’aj to get to Syria where they deliver crude oil and return with food. This difficult route has become the only way to supply food to Mosul, a city still inhabited by approximately a million and a half Iraqis in near impossible conditions. In addition to this the city comes under attack by the coalition fighter planes, which specifically target truck convoys even in the city centre.
“When I walk around in the city every morning I realise that employment is restricted to working as a taxi driver or a grocer, and unemployment forces some into joining ISIL,” Mahmood added.
Exchange and tax offices are propping up a cash-strapped ISIL
The markets in Mosul are run under rules decreed by ISIL, and ISIL traders control the goods that enter the markets or are withheld for a while so that prices go up.
“The organisation controls the import and sale of rice and sugar, it prohibits their import or sale unless it is carried out according to the prices they impose in the markets,” said Abu Manea, a food trader in the Borsa markets.
Livestock farming and butchery is an important source of tax imposed by the “Diwan Bait almal” [ISIL revenue office]. It was introduced after ISIL prohibited the import of all meat to the city citing the excuse that it is haram. They have opened many new slaughterhouses in order to collect taxes, up to seven hundred thousand Iraqi dinars for some livestock farmers and a million for others.
Some people are spared the extreme destitution because they have relatives or family members outside the Nineveh province who are able to transfer small sums of money through the limited number of transfer and exchange shops in the city.
However, contacting those relatives is difficult. They have to wait hours to access an internet connection to the other side to request monthly assistance of two hundred.
“The matter is not simple, my brother has to transfer the money from Erbil to Baghdad then it is transferred to Mosul because the transfer of money from the Kurdistan Region to Mosul is prohibited by Kurdish security forces,” Wafa’a, a civilian from Mosul says, while locking her hands in her lap.
The exchange shops manipulate exchange rates of the dollar in the city implementing instructions from ISIL in order to create more profit.
The rate for a dollar is about 1275 Iraqi dinars. This is at a time when in Baghdad exchanging a dollar returns approximately 1284 dinars. Official news agencies have reported that ISIL looted approximately $425 million from the central bank in the city.
Mahmood ends his daily walk in the markets and returns home before lunchtime prayers, because he doesn’t want to pray in hatred and fears punishment from the Hisbah [religious ISIL police] if he avoids it. “Many men perform prayers without performing Wudu [ablution before praying] and many shop keepers close their shops and hide themselves inside until the end of praying time. We refuse to pray behind an ISIL Imam,” he says.