ISIL Faces Mosul Residents in Defence of Shrine*

ISIL Faces Mosul Residents in Defence of Shrine*

By Hassan Al-Obaidi in Baghdad

Hellenistic temple of Mrn at Hatra in Ninawa province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [Philippe Desmazes/AFP]

Dozens of men, women and children faced down “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) elements who were attempting to demolish the shrine and grave of Sheikh Fathi in Mosul’s al-Mashahda neighbourhood on June 24th, local figures told Mawtani.

The Sheikh Fathi shrine dates back to 1760 and is one of the city’s most important religious sites.

In addition to the sheikh’s grave, it includes a number of halls used as classrooms for lessons on Islamic teachings and memorisation of the holy Qur’an.

City residents set up a human chain around the sheikh’s shrine to protect it against the gunmen who had come to tear it down, said Mosul Tribes Council deputy head Ibrahim al-Hassan.

Some locals used rocks to attack the ISIL gunmen, “forcing them to leave the site after the number of people gathering in the area increased”, he told Mawtani.

“The ISIL elements were shocked by the speed with which residents gathered around the shrine because it was the first time since they had entered the city that a large popular crowd gathered against them in this way, which forced them to withdraw,” he said.

One local resident, who gave his name as Abu Salam al-Badrani for his own safety, told Mawtani he was among those who gathered around the shrine to prevent its demolition.

“These were moments of strength and elation at the same time as we felt unified before them,” he told Mawtani in a telephone interview.

“We stood with our faces unmasked and our chests before their rifles, while they were masked and hiding their faces from us.”

“Since the June event, ISIL elements have stopped demolishing statues and sacred shrines at the orders of their ‘governor’, fearing the people might clash with them,” said al-Badrani, who is 36.

Mosul residents are still moving out to other cities which are under the control of the Iraqi army and police, he added, attributing that to ISIL’s practices.

“ISIL proved to us with evidence and before our own eyes that it is impossible to live under their rule,” he said.

“Their daring to tear down the graves of prophets and good pious men […], demolishing small statues on the pretext they are blasphemous under Sunni Islamic rituals and practices, and flogging and beheading people […] prove to us one thing: ISIL is an occupation power, and it is not possible to live, deal or co-operate with it,” he said.

Increased co-operation with security forces against ISIL

Security reports show public co-operation with security forces increased threefold in Mosul after people discovered ISIL’s true identity and practices, Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan told Mawtani.

“ISIL’s behaviour is turning against it,” he said.

Maan described the incident at the shrine as “the first spark which will lead ISIL elements to their graves in Mosul and its suburbs”.

Mosul cleric Sheikh Rafih al-Hashemi told Mawtani ISIL’s entry into Mosul was a grievous matter, but it showed people up close the organisation’s phoniness and the emptiness of its slogans.

“The shrine incident helped the people regain their self-confidence, and showed them their true power and what they can do in the coming days,” he said.

“There is a real movement and upheaval in the Mosul ‘street’, which will lead to things that will change the present picture in Mosul tremendously,” al-Hashemi added.


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