Here’s a portrait of incredible bravery: a profile of Omar Mohammed, a historian who quietly and anonymously chronicled the rape of Mosul, his city, at the hands of ISIS. He risked his life to tell the truth to the outside world. Excerpts:
He wasn’t a spy. He was an undercover historian and blogger . As IS turned the Iraqi city he loved into a fundamentalist bastion, he decided he would show the world how the extremists had distorted its true nature, how they were trying to rewrite the past and forge a brutal Sunni-only future for a city that had once welcomed many faiths.
He knew that if he was caught he too would be killed.
“I am writing this for the history , because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal,” is how he explained the blog that was his conduit to the citizens of Mosul and the world beyond. “After many years, there will be people who will study what happened. The city deserves to have something written to defend the city and tell the truth, because they say that when the war begins, the first victim is the truth.”
He called himself Mosul Eye . He made a promise to himself in those first few days: Trust no one, document everything.
Neither family, friends nor the Islamic State group could identify him. His readership grew by the thousands every month.
Less than a year into their rule, in March 2015, he nearly cracked. IS beheaded a 14-year-old in front of a crowd; 12 people were arrested for selling and smoking cigarettes, and some of them flogged publicly. Seeing few alternatives, young men from Mosul were joining up by the dozens.
The sight of a fanatic severing the hand of a child accused of stealing unmoored him. The man told the boy that his hand was a gift of repentance to God before serenely slicing it away.
It was too much.
Mosul Eye was done. He defied the dress requirements, cut his hair short, shaved his beard and pulled on a bright red crewneck sweater. He persuaded his closest friend to join him.
“I decided to die.”
The sun shining, they drove to the banks of the Tigris blasting forbidden music from the car. They spread a scrap of rug over a stone outcropping and shared a carafe of tea. Mosul Eye lit a cigarette, heedless of a handful of other people picnicking nearby.
“I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done.”
He planned it as a sort of last supper, a final joyful day to end all days. He assumed he would be spotted, arrested, tortured. The tea was the best he had ever tasted.
But he did not die. Read the whole thing. It’s hard to imagine having that kind of courage. God bless that good and humane man. Here is a link to his Mosul Eye blog. If you have time, watch this short AP video about him.
Look what he tweeted today:
Christian of Mosul will also perform the Christmas sermon at the Church Saint Paul, the church that was cleaned and refurbished by young Mosuli Muslim people
— Mosul Eye عين الموصل (@MosulEye) December 18, 2017