Thursday, April 5, 2018

How the Caliphate was Run

Fabulous Times story by Rukmini Callimachi about how he and a team of helpers entered Mosul while the rubble was still smoldering to look for documents left by the Islamic State. Much material had been destroyed, either intentionally or during the fighting, but they did eventually find many real documents left by the Caliphate's bureaucracy. Putting these together with interviews, they discovered that after taking over Mosul's administration Islamic State commanders purged everyone not male Sunni Muslim but ordered all the rest to get back to work or else. Some things ran just as before. Some things ran better, especially trash collection, since the city was patrolled by armed men quick to arrest sanitation workers for slacking.
“Although they were not recognized as a state or a country,” said one shopkeeper, Ahmed Ramzi Salim, “they acted like one.”
One new thing was the comprehensive seizing of land owned by non-Sunnis and its redistribution to Sunni farmers:
Folder after folder, 273 in all, identified plots of land owned by farmers who belonged to one of the faiths banned by the group. Each yellow sleeve contained the handwritten request of a Sunni applying to confiscate the property.

Doing so involved a step-by-step process, beginning with a report by a surveyor, who mapped the plot, noted important topographical features and researched the property’s ownership. Once it was determined that the land was owned by one of the targeted groups, it was classified as property of the Islamic State. Then a contract was drawn up spelling out that the tenant could neither sublet the land nor modify it without the group’s permission.
Callimachi eventually tracked down the man whose signature was on all of these transfers, Mahmoud Ismael Salim, "Supervisor of Land," and he turned out to be a mild-mannered bureaucrat with a combover who shuddered as he said he was forced to do it under threat of death:
On busy days, a line snaked around his office building, made up of Sunni farmers, many of them resentful of their treatment at the hands of a Shia-led Iraqi government. In the same compound where we found the stacks of yellow folders, Mr. Salim received men he knew, whose children had played with his. They came to steal the land of other men they all knew — whose children had also grown up alongside theirs.

With the stroke of his pen, farmers lost their ancestors’ cropland, their sons were robbed of their inheritance and the wealth of entire families, built up over generations, was wiped out.

“These are relationships we built over decades, from the time of my father, and my father’s father,” Mr. Salim said, pleading for understanding. “These were my brothers, but we were forced to do it.”
So sad, so predictable. I highly recommend the whole piece.

Incidentally the Times must have spent more than a million dollars on this one story, sending a team of people to Iraq five times and providing them with protection, then arranging for a committee of experts to review the documents for authenticity and help analyze them. I feel like one simple thing we can all do to keep  civilization going is to subscribe to at least one of the major newspapers and do our part to pay for this kind of work.

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