Readers of my blog may recall Omar Fawaz al-Shammary, a resident of Mosul who did some media work covering life under the Islamic State (IS). On multiple occasions in 2015 (e.g. here) I used his posts to illustrate certain aspects of IS administration in Mosul, and he was the one who posted the basic theology textbook for training camp recruits: Course in Monotheism, issued by the Diwan al-‘Iftaa wa al-Buhuth.
By September 2015, Fawaz had abandoned media work following his second arrest at the hands of IS. An account that emerged in his name on Facebook continued to put out posts, but he denied having any Facebook account by this point. Note the document below issued by IS’ judiciary with regards to his case, which I have translated:
“Diwan al-Qada wa al-Madhalim
And judge between them by what God has revealed.
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
So judge between them by what God has revealed and don’t follow their whims.
This is what the judge Sheikh Abu Bakr, the judge of traffic and criminal cases, ruled in case no. 264, of security type, regarding the case of connecting with the apostate Ra’ad al-Hadidi, the defendant being Omar Fawaz Muhammad, the plaintiff being the security apparatus.
1. Pledging to avoid Internet use.
The evidence (means of ruling):
The accusation wasn’t proved against him but he is a suspect.”
His only social media presence for some time after the end of his Facebook presence was a Twitter account called ‘Adam Adam’, with which I corresponded briefly in preparation for a CTC Sentinel piece in spring 2016 on the pressures being faced by the IS project.
Having apparently vanished since that time, Omar Fawaz has since re-emerged on social media. Disliked on many Maslawi social media pages for the support he gave to IS, I decided to give him the opportunity to explain himself in an interview. It is certainly true for example that some of the claims circulated about him lacked substantive basis (e.g. that he was an official in IS). Our exclusive conversation is recorded below, only slightly edited for clarity.
In brief, Fawaz, who prior to the fall of Mosul in 2014 was a supporter of the idea of a Sunni federal region that has been associated with the Nujaifi family (and espoused by the likes of Iraqi businessman Khamis Khanjar), explains that above all he became disillusioned with IS after being arrested a second time by the organization, which he says subjected him to torture. For security reasons, he refused to reveal his current location.
Aymenn: Firstly can you tell me a little about your life? You visited Japan right? How did you visit this country?
Omar: I am a young man from Mosul. I write a lot of poetry. As for my qualifications, I am an engineer in electrical power technology. I visited Japan for work.
Aymenn: You obtained work in Japan? There are people who say you visited Japan through Ninawa province financing because you were a supporter of Osama al-Nujaifi.
Omar: Untrue. I worked with one of my friends and went with him. I have no relation with the Nujaifi family at all, but I supported Muttahidun’s idea under the objective of the Sunni region.
Aymenn: I see. You were a supporter of the idea of the Sunni region during the 2014 elections?
Omar: Of course, but also before the elections, specifically from the time of the Fallujah protests.
Aymenn: Yes. 2013. Can you clarify when you were born? Did you spend all your childhood in Mosul?
Omar: I was born in 1991. My childhood was between Mosul and Yemen.
Aymenn: Yemen. You had relatives there?
Omar: No it was work migration. I don’t want to discuss it further.
Aymenn: What did you think of the days of Saddam Hussein and the U.S. invasion? Or you didn’t care about politics back then?
Omar: I was at that time a child, so my opinion is unimportant.
Aymenn: Right. Why did you think that the Sunni region was the solution for the Sunnis in Iraq? Did you feel that the Sunnis in Iraq were marginalized?
Omar: I didn’t perceive that, but rather I lived through it. The region was the most peaceful of solutions. Isn’t it preferable to the state of our towns now!!
Aymenn: Yes I see the destruction of our beloved Mosul and other towns like Ramadi. There are people who say that you fled from Mosul when it fell into the hands of the Dawla organization [IS] and in the beginning you were against the organization but later you returned and became a supporter. Can you clarify this matter?
Omar: I was against them before they entered even as I did not know them, because of what al-Arabiya and its sister channels published, and because of the assassination of my cousin who was working in the local police. I became a supporter, because I deemed it to be of good tidings, and I thought highly of them.
Aymenn: You never fled from Mosul? You remained in the city the whole time of the organization’s control over Mosul.
Omar: I left Mosul in the morning of 10 June 2014.
Aymenn: I see. But later you returned. You didn’t leave Iraq?
Omar: No comment.
Aymenn: No problem. Frankly I didn’t understand why you became a supporter of the organization? Didn’t you see the organization destroyed the most famous places of Mosul like the Prophet Yunis shrine and the Prophet Seth shrine?
Omar: They did not destroy it out of ijtihad [independent judgment] so I didn’t oppose. They brought forth texts that permit them [to do this]. I am not a man of religion, so it was of no importance to me.
Aymenn: Meaning in that time the destruction of the shrines didn’t concern you?
Omar: Yes it wasn’t important to me, because I remember a number of years ago the imam of the mosque forbade praying in Prophet Yunis.
Aymenn: Meaning the imam of one of the mosques in Mosul?
Omar: Yes in the al-Wahda neighbourhood area I don’t remember the mosque’s name, but I wanted to clarify to you.
Aymenn: Yeah. In the mosques in Mosul I remember there was influence for the Salafi groups like Ansar al-Islam before the fall.
Omar: I don’t know. I used to pray on Friday only.
Aymenn: What was your opinion on life in Mosul before the fall? Did you feel that there was oppression by the security forces there?
Omar: If there weren’t oppression, what happened wouldn’t have happened. Life was normal for the most part, but it was ruled by two states: one the external, the other the deep.
Aymenn: What you mean with regards to the deep state?
Omar: The Dawla organization and its control over the sectors of most of the offices of the state.
Aymenn: Yes. I understood. Meaning their influence in the offices and extorting most offices and shops in the town. Right?
Omar: No comment.
Aymenn: Generally in Mosul public services before the fall weren’t worse than other areas in Iraq?
Omar: Yes, they were not [worse].
Aymenn: There are many complaints about closed off paths and the conduct of the security forces before the fall. In your view this was the biggest problem with regards to oppression?
Omar: The closed paths and checkpoints are the stick that broke the camel’s back. The matter is deeper in my view.
Aymenn: Can you clarify this matter please?
Omar: The Sunnis felt marginalized since the first day of the fall of Baghdad .
Aymenn: In what fields exactly? You told me the public services in Mosul for instance weren’t worse than other areas in Iraq.
Omar: Fields of rule: the Sunnis, most of them were officers, officials and men of rule.
Aymenn: Yes and after the fall they lost these positions. The Sunnis are most of the people in Iraq?
Omar: Of course America preferred to turn the tables on them and thus began the series [of events].
Aymenn: I won’t ask where you went after the fall of Mosul but may I ask when you returned to Mosul during the rule of the Dawla organization?
Omar: This question may also be of harm to me.
Aymenn: Okay. During the organization’s control of Mosul did you think the public services were better than before the fall of Mosul or roughly speaking the same?
Omar: There are some services that became better and others that became worse, in particular services of oil derivatives.
Aymenn: I heard for example the municipal services were better, like cleaning the streets and some building projects?
Omar: True, these services improved by 50%.
Aymenn: The organization worked to improve the electricity network in Mosul? The system of generators?
Omar: It tried to do so, but the generators’ storages in Aden neighbourhood and others were bombed by the coalition.
Aymenn: I heard something about inserting circuit breakers in some of the generators to improve network usage.
Omar: No, I did not hear [of that].
Aymenn: You mentioned some of the services were worse. Can you clarify which services exactly and the reasons?
Omar: Water services because of the lack of sterilizers, and services of oil derivatives.
Aymenn: I heard of the increase in prices of oil derivatives and petrol and that they brought oil from Syria.
Omar: True, the prices increased and were stingy for the most part.
Aymenn: This was because Mosul was cut off from oil in the south of Iraq?
Omar: Truthfully I don’t know.
Aymenn: How were the health services? Better or worse than before?
Omar: The staff teams faced shortages because a great number of doctors had left. The medicines were not all available.
Aymenn: Yes. With the fall of Mosul many left Mosul. I heard about an increase in the prices of the medicines. Is this true?
Omar: The imported medicines increased in price because of the difficulty of bringing them in, as for local ones, they were not impacted greatly.
Aymenn: Yes I remember banning the import of medicines from Iran. Most imported medicines were from Syria?
Omar: I don’t know about banning importation from Iran, but yes the medicines came from Syria.
Aymenn: Most of the schools were closed after imposing new books?
Omar: Not closed but because of the aversion of the people from sending their children, the schools were merged and compressed: every area had one school.
Aymenn: Why was there aversion? Because they thought the schools were a tool to teach the organization’s ideology?
Omar: The matter is complicated and if I clarify it on the level of the truth behind it, they will say he is criticizing the people of his town, but in short the reason is the salaries.
Aymenn: You mean it was necessary to pay to send children and most people didn’t have the money?
Omar: More or less, and in principle the teacher didn’t receive [a salary], and their numbers were cut for modest salaries.
Aymenn: In summer 2015, most salaries of workers in Mosul were cut from the Iraqi government as I believe. So the organization had to bear responsibility for the salaries but the salaries weren’t good. Right?
Omar: It didn’t bear responsibility for the salaries but rather thought about it, and the number of employees needed a state budget. The organization cannot bear these things in any way.
Aymenn: So in the end the organization didn’t offer any salary for teachers in the schools in Mosul?
Omar: It offered to some of them, and symbolic sums.
Aymenn: I see. Generally life became worse and worse with the passing of time? Economic circumstances and these things.
Aymenn: What were the main reasons in your opinion?
Omar: A group in a war with 80 states, how do you think the economic condition will be in the areas under their rule?
Aymenn: True, but also the Iraqi government cut salaries for most of the workers in Mosul.
Aymenn: When did you begin doing media work in Mosul under the organization’s rule? You visited some of the diwans and met some of the leadership like Dhu al-Qarnain head of the Diwan al-Ta’aleem right?
Omar: I did not meet Dhu al-Qarnain, rather I visited Mosul University as I had a friend there on the curricula committee who invited me, no more or less.
Aymenn: But I remember you wrote posts about some of the diwans right? Diwan al-Khidamat and Diwan al-Rikaz for example. Didn’t you do media visits to these diwans?
Omar: Yes I made visits and investigated out of personal effort exclusively. And I was arrested at that time.
Aymenn: Of course this matter is important. Why did they arrest you?
Omar: First arrest was because I was going around the diwans without official permission.
Aymenn: When was this arrest?
Omar: No comment.
Aymenn: But they arrested you a second time and after this you abandoned media work?
Omar: Yes, true.
Aymenn: They arrested you a second time for the same reason?
Omar: No, on accusation of collaboration.
Aymenn: Collaboration with the coalition.
Omar: With people recruiting agents for the coalition.
Aymenn: Didn’t you hate the ban on freedoms in Mosul under the organization? Like banning smoking and imposing the niqab on women. I also heard about banning billiards.
Omar: Of course I hated the ban on freedoms, but I did not hate the niqab.
Aymenn: Is it true they banned billiards?
Aymenn: By God I thought they didn’t ban this thing.
Omar: They didn’t ban it from the beginning, but problems began to arise because of the times of prayer, do they shut them down.
Aymenn: Was this months after the organization seized Mosul?
Omar: I don’t know the date honestly.
Aymenn: Despite the ban on freedoms you frankly preferred life under the organization to life before the fall? I saw many times you said regarding their rule: here is the land of the Caliphate and Excellence.
Omar: Yes, life, despite its negative aspects, was simple frankly, but I preferred it morally speaking, and for a limited time.
Aymenn: What do you mean when you say you preferred life under the organization morally speaking?
Omar: Because I saw it as a land ruled by God’s law despite all the bad things.
Aymenn: Did you feel the organization represented Sunnis’ interests in Iraq?
Omar: Generally, not only in Iraq, but the Sunnis in Iraq had the greatest dividend.
Aymenn: Generally how did the organization deal with people? E.g. in security procedure or criminal cases etc.
Omar: In the beginning the treatment was very good, but the matters began to go bad, especially after people became averse to them, in all aspects.
Aymenn: Approximately when did people begin becoming averse to them generally?
Omar: After the cutting of salaries in the middle of 2015, this is just a personal opinion that may be erroneous.
Aymenn: When you were a supporter of the organization, did you consider it actually to be the Caliphate?
Omar: When I was a supporter, yes I considered it to be a Caliphate and that it was of good tidings for the Ummah.
Aymenn: But now you don’t think it is the Caliphate.
Omar: Now I don’t think of anything from the foundation, the Ummah now is dying and can’t bear new efforts.
Aymenn: But it’s become clear you changed your opinion on the Dawla organization. Is there something specific that led to the change in your opinion?
Omar: More than [anything]: my arrest and torture without any evidence brought about doubt. I don’t believe there is a greater personal reason that can change a person.
Aymenn: By God, the organization tortured you?
Omar: Yes they tortured me, on accusation of collaboration.
Aymenn: What do you think of the organization’s deeds like the explosion in Karrada that killed more than 300 people and taking Yezidi women captive.
Omar: No comment.
Aymenn: But you knew of these things in that time?
Omar: Concerning the captivity of Yezidi women I knew, but the issue of captivity is a religious issue and I am not a man of religion,
Aymenn: Do you think that the idea of the Sunni region is an appropriate solution for the Sunnis in Iraq today?
Omar: Now the matter is very difficult.
Aymenn: Meaning there is no possibility of establishing a Sunni region in Iraq.
Omar: I don’t think so.
Aymenn: Do you expect there is a future for the people in Mosul?
Omar: We hope for the best.
Aymenn: If the choice now is between living under the Dawla organization or living under the Iraqi government, whom do you choose?
Omar: I don’t choose any of them, because currently I don’t trust the two sides.
Aymenn: And if the choice now is between living under the Dawla organization or living under the Japanese government, whom do you choose?
Omar: I prefer any state that guarantees my freedom and protects my dignity.
Aymenn: Yes, I visited Japan and this matter is clear. The Japanese government guarantees the citizen’s freedoms.
Omar: Any non-Arab state is a state that guarantees man’s dignity in my personal view, only we Arabs are the ones who resolve our problems through hitting and torture and force.
Aymenn: Yes, the Dawla organization is the same thing.
Omar: Yes, they as well. Isn’t the majority of them from the Arabs? These are hereditary genes in my view.
Aymenn: When you were arrested a second time how many days did you spend in prison?
Omar: No comment, but the verification continued for 4 days.
Aymenn: Do you expect that the organization will seize Mosul again?
Omar: Any state that oppresses will vanish.
Aymenn: Yes. After the organization’s rule for a period of more than 2 years, people think the organization became oppressive.
Omar: They didn’t think so, but rather they felt the existence of oppression and the oppression spread.
Aymenn: There are people who say your father was in the organization. This isn’t true?
Omar: Hahaha, and the evidence is he deals in his work with all freedom, no brother on the contrary my father is of exclusively secular orientation.
Aymenn: In the beginning can we say that most of the people I Mosul were joyful at the fall of the town outside of the Iraqi government’s control? They thought the organization was the so-called tribal revolutionaries.
Omar: More or less.
Aymenn: Most members of the organization in Mosul were from the city of Mosul or Ninawa countryside? And didn’t you ever visit Syria during the organization’s control?
Omar: They were from both sides, but most from the Arabs of Mosul. No comment.
Aymenn: From the Arabs of Mosul? Or do you mean west Mosul?
Omar: Arabs of Mosul: that is, not from the old Maslawis.