Poignant video of fleeing Mosul girl removing IS-enforced niqab

Poignant video of fleeing Mosul girl removing IS-enforced niqab
A powerful video has emerged depicting a young, emotionally exhausted girl arriving at Peshmerga positions outside Mosul and hastily removing her enforced niqab in a symbolic act of relief.
3 min read
02 Nov, 2016
The complete liberation of Mosul remains a long way off [AFP]
Since Iraqi forces began an assault on the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul on 17 October, thousands have fled areas under the extremist group’s control. Some have been re-united in emotional scenes with relatives they had not seen since IS took control of Mosul in June 2014.

Meanwhile, thousands more civilians remain trapped in Mosul, unable to leave, with reports of recent mass executions inside the city, and concerns voiced by aid groups that civilians could be used as human shields.

Advances made by Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have revealed some of the austere regulations that govern life under IS in Mosul: the existence of telephone hotlines for residents to call to report acts of disobedience, documents requiring locals to switch their Iraqi identifications into IS ones, and newsletters presenting strict guidelines on beard length …

Beyond this, the brutal nature of corporal and capital punishment under IS has long been known.

It is evidenced in the genocidal campaigns the extremist group, which has kept young girls as sex slaves, has carried out against the Yazidi community in Iraq, the brutal killings exacted on those accused of homosexuality, the cutting off of hands of suspected thieves, all of which has been broadcast in high-definition, promoted through the group’s social media networks like some form of grotesque horror-core pageantry: except the acts depicted are real.

In the last couple of weeks, images of civilians that have managed to flee Mosul show faces overcome with emotion at the realisation that they are no longer under IS’ control.

One particularly powerful image has emerged this week. It shows a young girl, dressed in black, in a state of emotional distress reaching Peshmerga positions outside of Mosul.

After being briefly helped by a Peshmerga soldier in military fatigues, the young girl, her small frame visibly trembling in the midst of heartfelt outbursts of raw emotion – pain, relief, untold suffering – reaches for a niqab, compulsory under the Islamic State Control, positioned on her head and in one small, simple movement begins to pull it away revealing a matt of sweat-soaked hair clinging to a pale brow.

Since taking Mosul in June 2014, the brutal killing campaigns and repressions of civil and religious liberties unleashed by the extremist group have permanently scarred Iraq, exacerbating sectarian cleavages that will ensure that even once Mosul falls peace and stability will by no means be guaranteed.

In the image, broadcast by Rudaw, it would be unwise to claim that the removal of the niqab represents the end of oppression, or hope for the future, or even a better tomorrow. In truth it depicts an individual in a moment of overwhelming emotional release coming to terms with untold experiences, a sudden realization that one nightmare is at an end.

However, for thousands more trapped in Mosul the nightmare remains ongoing, and as aid organisations have consistently emphasised the fall of the city could signal the largest humanitarian crisis in the world in 2016. Taken together, such realities serve as a stark reminder that Mosul’s inevitable fall is no guarantee that Iraq’s nightmare will end.