In terms of our shopping mission, a lot of the people of Mosul have done the same thing; their fear of ongoing shortages has forced them to leave the city and go and buy supplies from elsewhere. Previously their best bet was to enter the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan to get supplies. However more recently the two sides – the IS group and the Iraqi Kurdish military – have been clashing and this makes it harder for Mosul locals to return home.
We had this problem. We had to wait for hours to get back into Mosul because of fighting between IS militants and the Iraqi Kurdish military. We passed through large numbers of Iraqi Kurdish troops and saw scenes of destruction. Only 300 meters away from the Iraqi Kurdish checkpoint we were met by crowds of IS fighters carrying the distinctive black flag. As we drove forward, we began to see their faces clearly in our car headlights.
However before we got to them, they pointed their guns at us and told us to turn back. Our driver got out and tried to talk to them but they fired their guns over his head. So we had to retreat. And we only managed to get back into Mosul the next day, after spending the night at a friend’s house in Bashiqua, and along another road. There were dozens of other cars carrying Mosul families who were in a similar predicament. Situations like this has meant that many locals now prefer to shop for supplies in Hasaka, in Syria, just over the border. The roads into this area are open and they can get gas there too, which is becoming harder and harder to get inside Mosul.
In fact, as the days go by, there are fewer and fewer cars on Mosul’s roads. Queues of cars waiting for petrol stretching several kilometres have become a common sight.
One man, Mahmoud al-Houri, spent two days in one such queue – just to get 20 litres of gasoline. He took a mattress, a pillow, some food and water and even a football so he could entertain himself.
In a nearby open space, the young people waiting in the queue had set up a makeshift football pitch, with big stones to show where the goals are.
“It’s the World Cup of getting gas,” one of the people waiting in the petrol station queue joked.