Iraqi refugees debate intentions of brutal al-Qaida splinter group ISIS
KHAZER, Iraq — Kurdish soldiers in tan camouflage, some with U.S. insignia, guard the checkpoint here between Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and Erbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish enclave.
Women and children are huddled in the bed of an idling pickup truck with few belongings. Ethnic Turkmen, they hoped to stay with friends in Erbil.
“We are afraid ISIS will attack us,” said Saleh Abdullah, 46, the truck's driver, referring to the brutal al-Qaida splinter group — Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — that overran Mosul more than a week ago.
“There is no government, no army, and we don't know if it is ISIS or thieves, but everyone has guns,” he said.
Nearby, other Iraqis crammed their families into blue United Nations tents.
Saddam Hazem, 38, was among the new arrivals. “They want to kill me,” he said of ISIS.
A barber, Hazem had a shop near a military checkpoint in Mosul where he cut the hair of Iraqi soldiers. Those soldiers ran when ISIS seized the city with help from Sunni Muslims, who oppose the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
Hazem fled, too, but later returned to his barbershop.
“There were several gunmen, and they pointed and cocked their guns at me and said, ‘Here is the apostate,' ” he said.
He hid in a friend's home, he said, while “ISIS criminals” hunted for him. “When they couldn't find me, they burned my car. It had my passport and my Iraqi ID. That is all gone now.
“We walked around 18 miles, and all we saw were burned-out army vehicles. It was ghostly.”
Others refugees fled, fearing government airstrikes on Mosul.
Some praised ISIS fighters as “revolutionaries.”
“Their goal is to free the country” from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, said Youseff Qarduri, 31, a taxi driver. “People say ISIS has foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria, but they are real Iraqis like us.”
He and others, gathered under a U.N. tent, accused Iraqi soldiers of humiliating Sunnis and being corrupt.
“They are only working for the money, not for Iraq,” Qarduri said disdainfully. “We didn't see anything bad from the revolutionaries — they gave a one-time amnesty for those soldiers” to surrender.
The men in the tent said ISIS fighters reconnected electricity to their homes, and they denied reports of government buildings being looted. They said the fighters removed concrete security barriers that made it difficult to navigate across the city.
“We don't have anything against the Shia; it is just Maliki,” Qarduri insisted.
Abu Fatimah, 57, who recycles cans, went to the camp 10 days ago to escape artillery fire in his neighborhood. He insists on using a pseudonym, fearing persecution if he spoke out.
“ISIS doesn't like Maliki, and Maliki doesn't like ISIS. All of us are caught in the middle,” he said. “We want a leader who will rule with peace and justice and not divide us.”
Hazem, the barber, insists ISIS is a real threat: “They executed eight sheiks in the mosques because they wouldn't follow ISIS. Now cigarettes are forbidden, women can't go out — I saw it all.
“The ISIS gunmen are bothering the people, and some people are helping them.”
Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Driver dies, students hurt in school van crash in Indiana County
- McKeesport alternative education students will move as academy closes
- Spring is season of champions in A-K Valley
- Wheelchair-bound kids get into the swing at White Oak playground
- Judge dismisses UPMC ‘data breach’ lawsuit
- Impasse on reconfiguration prompts Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board workshop with state officials
- Padres snap Pirates’ 7-game win streak
- Paddleboard classes focus on fitness
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Steelers nose tackle McCullers finds performance, fitness go hand in hand
- Point Park graduate’s ‘mugshot’ photos hit nerve on racism