Firas” is a journalist and civil activist from Mosul, who had returned to the city in 2017, three years after the ISIS invasion.
Back then, he didn’t know that he would be forced to leave again, this time because of threats by groups, who boasted about liberating the city.
“Firas” actively joined major reconstruction campaigns in Mosul and writes reports and stories about the sufferings of its residents due to the remnants of ISIS.
Speaking to told Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “I was directly threatened by a group called "Raba'a Allah" after I published a blog on Facebook criticizing the posting of pictures of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, Qassem Soleimani, on his death anniversary.”
“The threats came in the form of several phone calls and text messages, in addition to a fierce attack by electronic armies on my Facebook account, which forced me to leave the city, fearing for my life,” he added.
“Sabah” (also a pseudonym), a civilian activist from Mosul, has chosen to delete his posts on social media platforms to avoid being forced to leave the city. He said the "Raba'a Allah" group threatened him with imprisonment on charges of belonging to ISIS, if he did not delete posts criticizing factions affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces.
Military expert, retired Major General Faisal Hassan, describes the deployment of the Mobilization forces as “a quasi-blockade on the city.”
“The 30th Brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which consists of groups belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah and others affiliated with Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, are deployed on the borders, starting from the Bashiqa area northeast of Mosul to the Nimrud area southeast of the city,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Lawyer Hassan al-Hamdani noted that the arrival of the "Raba'a Allah" group to Mosul at this time was an early preparation for the elections, with the aim of spreading terror and imposing political wills in a fragile region.
He added that the group seeks to “silence every activist or journalist who works to publish facts about the violations and corruption carried out by influential people affiliated with the factions in Mosul.”
In addition to the early preparations for the elections, these factions aim to control the economic resources of the city.
According to businessman Hassan Fathallah, economic offices affiliated with these groups are using all their capabilities to inflate the revenues of political parties by exploiting Mosul’s resources.
“One of these groups supports companies and contractors who exploited an archeological land in ancient Nineveh near the Nur neighborhood and sold it at exorbitant prices… Other areas were exploited the same way,” he said.
As for the Nineveh Plains, militias under different names control all aspects of economic, political and social life, imposing fees on commercial traffic through checkpoints, according to an eyewitness from the region.
Al-Hamdani, who left Mosul after several threats, affirmed that the intrusion of militias and their tight control was the result of the weakness of the state and its multiple security bodies.
“Firas”, who fled Mosul twice - the first, for fear of ISIS in 2014 and the second after receiving threats from Rub’Allah early this year, said he lost hope in the possibility of living in the city, which is controlled by groups he described as “mafias”.
“There is no solution to this problem without a strong state of institutions that can impose the rule of law and stop the practices of these groups that have violated Nineveh without limits,” he stated.