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“Water is available two hours a day only”: what an ISIS-run city looks like

Refugees from Mosul in Iraqi Kurdistan, in July.
Refugees from Mosul in Iraqi Kurdistan, in July.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Even the bravest war correspondent can't report on daily life inside the stretches of Iraq and Syria that ISIS has conquered. So, to get information out to the world, one resident of Mosul, ISIS's most important conquest in Iraq, is writing live updates from the city anonymously. And it sounds hellish.

Mosul Eye, purportedly a local historian, writes anonymously on Facebook and an eponymous blog. It's very difficult to verify the author's identity, much less the information he or she provides, so take it with a grain of salt. But close Iraq watchers seem to see Mosul Eye's dispatches as credible.

Mosul, a heavily Sunni enclave that's also Iraq's second largest city, sounds like a nightmare under ISIS rule. Here's an overview from Mosul Eye's latest:

Electricity has been completely cut out in the city...Oil products continue to rise in cost, unemployment rates are sky-rocketing, and hospitals are lacking the essential drugs and medicine due to ISIS members seizing large amounts of medicine for exclusive use to heal their wounded. The ISIS-controlled clinics spread across the city are abundant with drugs and medicine while public hospitals and clinics suffer a major shortage of healing substances.

Water is available two hours a day only for the entire city of Mosul. The amount of water pumped is not enough to save in the roof-tanks. These tanks (which are used to contain water for future purposes) are now 200,000 Iraqi Dinars. Their cost never exceeded 50,000 Iraqi Dinars before.

Internally displaced Iraqis from Beigi, Salahadeen, Zummar, Anbar, and other areas have found refuge in Mosul however their living conditions remain dire. The tents these refugees use for shelter are not equipped enough to weather the rain and despite of the harsh financial situation in the city, the local residents of Mosul are contributing with what they can to help.

According to this, people don't have power, water, or, in some cases, adequate shelter. Moreover, the post continues, ISIS has taken over civilian homes throughout the city. They've terrified teachers into teaching their own bizarre history curriculum, but almost no students are attending school. And "the women of Mosul remain the largest victims."

"I spoke to a college professor," Mosul Eye recalls, "who told me: 'I will never leave my home as long as I breathe. I graduated from the United Kingdom. I am a secular, liberal, civil woman and I refuse to submit to these circumstances. I will not wear a burka.' This lady has not left her home since June 10th, 2014."

(Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images)

An Iraqi soldier travelling away from Mosul. (Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images)

If things are so horrible then why haven't Mosul residents risen up against ISIS's rule? Mosul Eye has an interesting, complicated answer to that question. Four factors appear to explain it: pro-ISIS sentiment among rural Mosul residents, even stronger pro-ISIS feelings among migrants from nearby Tal Afar, fear of ISIS reprisal, and lack of trust that the Iraqi army is actually interested in helping them. Here's one particularly chilling story:

A merchant was informed he was to pay $100K within a 48 hour period which ended without the demands being met. An explosive device was planted in a car carrying the merchant's son - on his wedding day - killing him immediately with the bride. He was then told his second would be killed unless the money was doubled. Fearing another loss, the man gave in.

ISIS's "fear will keep them in line" strategy appears to be working in Mosul, at least in the short run. This level of brutality has backfired against ISIS before: an anti-ISIS uprising in 2006 nearly destroyed the group back when it was al-Qaeda in Iraq. But Mosul's Sunni residents are unlikely to rise up so long as they don't have a viable armed group to rely on for protection. And until Sunni militias turn on ISIS, or trust in Iraq's army improves, they won't.

Related: The US is bombing Syria and Iraq to destroy ISIS. Here's why that won't work:

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