Roadside Bankers Profit From Extremists’ Mobile Phone Shutdown in Mosul
It has been around two weeks since the extremists running Mosul decided to cut off mobile phone coverage in the city. For some locals in the city the breakdown is about more than communication – some cannot access electronic social welfare payments and others are seeing their businesses crippled.
When the city of Mosul still used to hold its famous Spring Festival – a holiday instituted by former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein – many locals used to gather in the more elevated Minassa area to see the festivities.
But now Mosul locals are gathering here for a completely different reason. Radwan Khaled, 53, a retired army officer, is one of them. He recalls being in about the same spot when he used to have to come here to salute Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of the Iraqi army’s top military commanders during Hussein’s regime. And he is still raising his hand – except today it’s because he’s trying to get a better connection for his mobile phone, hoping to find a network here.
It has been around two weeks since the extremist group known as the Islamic State, which took control of the city in early June this year, decided that mobile telecommunications should be cut off in Mosul. And Khaled and the other people with him, waving their phones around, have come here to try and access their government-paid pensions, salaries and other social welfare payments, which have been transferred electronically via Iraq’s Qi card system.
While the shutdown in telecommunications has had a big effect on many of the estimated 1.5 million people still living in Mosul, the first to really feel the effects were those paid by Qi card, an electronic banking system. Once the Qi card has registered that money is available in the holder’s account, they can get the cash from any outlet in the area that takes the card.
Happily for Khaled, getting up high with his phone allowed him to download the amount of pension he was owed. However the actual payment process turned out to be slower than he expected – supplies of cash money were running out in the city.