In Mosul, hundreds fear arrest for sharing names with extremists

Mohammed Salim –

Since extremists were pushed out of Mosul, Mohammed has not left his home. Although he never joined the IS group, he shares a name with one of its fighters and fears arrest.
Like hundreds of others, the 24-year-old Iraqi father of two has not dared to approach security forces for fear of being detained because of his name.
“I can’t get out of Mosul or even move freely around the city,” the young man said.
Sami al Faisal, who runs a human rights group, said he had recorded “about 2,500 people suffering from similar names” in Mosul and its surrounding province.
Personal ID cards in Iraq, like most Arab countries, carry a person’s first name, father’s name and grandfather’s name. But to determine a person’s surname and tribe, it’s often necessary to look into the area’s personal status records.
Civil archives are the only way to distinguish between the thousands of Mohammeds, Alis, Khaleds, Khalils and Ibrahims — some of the most popular names in the country.
The Iraqi interior ministry has begun issuing new ID cards equipped with a code that enables security forces to retrieve a person’s full name on a computerised system.
But in Mosul, where authorities are still struggling to restore public services after more than three years of extremist occupation, these new digital IDs do not exist.
Although judicial sources and lawyers have told Mohammed he could clear his name in court, the young man flatly refused.
“Asking a judge to investigate means I’ll be detained for months at a police station. To conduct an investigation and verify my innocence with various security services… this process takes a long time,” he explained.
This puzzle of similar names and the fear of detention is the talk of the town in Mosul. Wahid, 30, on condition of anonymity, said his surname was on a list of wanted people during a recent trip to his university to collect his diploma.
“This document is only issued after an investigation by the intelligence services, so I gave up asking for it for fear of arrest,” he said.
“The scary thing is that I’d be subject to beatings before I can prove my innocence.” In Mosul after IS, nobody is spared. Some within the security forces or provincial authorities have already paid for it.
Mohammed Ibrahim al Bayati, who is in charge of security in the provincial council, said he is a victim. — AFP