The Bodies of Mosul
By Robin Wright
By Robin Wright
I drove into Mosul in a battered Nissan pickup truck in mid-March. Iraq’s second-largest city, once a thriving manufacturing and commercial center, is now a wreckage of destroyed factories, shops, and homes. Huge craters from bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition obstructed major intersections. The craters, designed to slow ISIS suicide drivers targeting the Iraqi Army, have since filled with filmy, stagnant water; they were treacherous to circumvent. Roads were lined with rubble from five months of war—chunks of concrete, twisted electricity poles and downed wires, shards of window glass. Almost every block of East Mosul was littered with charred cars. ISIS seized them from residents, setting them alight to emit black smoke and hide their movements from coalition warplanes.
There were still many bodies on the streets, even though isis was forced out many weeks ago. I spent an afternoon in Hay al-Tameem, or “Neighborhood of Nationalization,” a district where isis ran a bomb factory and confiscated homes for leaders and senior fighters. Signs in black spray paint identified houses as “Property of the Islamic State.”
“There were a lot of Russian isis fighters here,” Ahmed Sobhay, who lived across the street from the bomb factory, told me. Thousands flocked to the Islamic State from the Russian Republic of Chechnya, but Sobhay never dared to ask for their home towns. isis fighters sporadically held a gun to his head to demand his coöperation; once, they put a gun to the head of his six-year-old son, Ammer, to ask if his father was secretly smoking. Sobhay said he pulled his children out of school and didn’t let his wife or daughter go out in public for fear they would be carried off by ISIS.