Residents in Mosul mark start of first Ramadan after ISIS

A man from Mosul makes some pre-Ramadan purchases at a market. Photo: Rudaw

MOSUL, Iraq — As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins on Saturday, the vast majority of residents in Mosul will observe the fasting occasion without the shadow of the jihadist militants who over the past three years imposed core Sharia law in the city.

Clashes still continue in neighbourhoods west of Mosul where militants remain in control of the Old Town and the surrounding districts, but according to Iraq’s army over 90 percent of the city has been retaken from the group during the ongoing offensive that started in October last year.

“There were severe penalties for those who did not fast when ISIS was here,” says Faris Karim, a shipowner in the crowded Mosul bazaar.

“Up to 60 lashes with a whip was the immediate punishment for those who failed to go by their rules. That, if you were lucky. Some could end up in jail and God knows what happened to you there,” Karim continues.

Although authorities in Iraq, like many Islamic countries, encourage the population during Ramadan to show respect by not consuming food and water outdoors, there are no penalties for non-practicing residents.

The Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria has long imposed a strict ban on alcohol, cursing, smoking and other acts deemed haram, or sinful.

“Those who did not fast could face inhuman treatments,” says Ahmed Tofiq, a Kurdish resident who has lived in Mosul for more than 30 years.

“Sometimes they put the violators inside cages in public and left them there without food and water for a whole day in the sun,” Tofiq says.

According to the army five neighbourhoods including the devastated Old Town district still remain in ISIS control where some 150,000 people are still trapped in the crossfire.

The army says the battle to retake the areas around the Old Town could take longer than previous estimations to avoid larger civilian casualties.

The military announced earlier that the entire western Mosul was expected to be liberated before the start of Ramadan.