Security

Gogjali residents shake off the horror of ISIL

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi families walk through Gogjali on November 4th, two days after Iraqi forces liberated the village from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Bulent Kilic/AFP]

Residents of the newly liberated village of Gogjali on Mosul's eastern edge tell Diyaruna they suffered oppression, imprisonment and torture at the hands of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

In the two years that ISIL occupied the village, which was liberated by Iraqi forces on November 2nd , residents said they lived in fear of the group's tyranny.

"We would not leave our homes for weeks because we were afraid of ISIL. They were criminals and for them killing was as easy as drinking water," said Mahmoud Shukur, who lives in the Water Project neighbourhood of Gogjali.

"They restricted our movement and freedom and they would kill, imprison and torture whoever did not obey them," he told Diyaruna.

"Life was dark and without colour under their rule," he said. "Now the sun of freedom is shining."

Hope for the future

Shukur said he hopes to return to work as a taxi driver.

"Unemployment has worn us down," he said. "We have spent all of our savings and I sold what I had to put food on the table, but now I can finally go back to work and support my family."

Shukur said he still cannot believe his area has been liberated and that ISIL is a "thing of the past".

"I was overcome with joy, I danced in the street and kissed the soldiers on the head, and they danced with me," he said.

The security forces warned residents to stay indoors via loudspeakers, he said, but that did not prevent many people from taking to the streets to welcome the liberating soldiers.

When ISIL was in control of the village, its fighters "forced us to stay at home", said Gogjali resident Umm Abdullah.

"We could not leave unless absolutely necessary and only with a male escort," she told Diyaruna. "We had to wear a black niqab and flowing robes."

"They banned us from work and we felt less like human beings," she added.

ISIL’s violations continued until the moment before the Iraqi forces defeated them , a resident who introduced himself as Abu Majid told Diyaruna.

"As they got closer to losing, ISIL randomly started firing at people’s homes, including my house, with the aim of hurting people," he said. "They were in a desperate situation and they collapsed as soon as our heroic troops advanced."

Security co-operation

Locals supported Iraqi forces by providing them with information about the group's locations and its weapons and ammunition caches, Ninawa provincial council security committee head Mohammed Ibrahim told Diyaruna.

This support helped bring about victory, he said.

"Intelligence from local residents was like a treasure trove that allowed our forces to quickly defeat the enemy," Ibrahim said.

Gogjali, which has a population of about 20,000, was ISIL's second line of defence after it lost the town of Bartella, some 20 kilometres east of Mosul , he added.

"Now, the road to the centre of Mosul from its south-eastern suburbs is open and only five kilometres separate our troops from the city centre," Ibrahim said.

When the Iraqi forces entered the villages of al-Hod and Lazaga to the south of Mosul, "people rose up against ISIL and killed several of its members", Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakaa told Diyaruna.

Fearing a repeat scenario in Gogjali, ISIL cracked down on the villagers, intimidating, punishing and oppressing them, he said.

"But they failed, and residents co-operated with the security services and gave them all the information they needed to win the battle," al-Wakaa said.

Rule of law returns

"The people of Gogjali and other liberated areas are all happy to be rid of ISIL and that the rule of law and government have been restored," al-Wakaa said.

"The nightmare is over," he added.

The battle to liberate Gogjali was "easy and swift" thanks to the co-operation and help of the locals, Counter-Terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Numan told Diyaruna.

"We hit all the enemy locations, killed seven suicide attackers and detained three," he said. "We also combed the area to make sure it was free of terrorists and it is now completely secured."

"The chapter of terrorism in Gogjali is over," al-Numan said. "Our next goal is to liberate the left bank of Mosul."

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