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Daish kin fear reprisal after Mosul defeat

BARTELLA (Iraq)

Their husbands, sons and brothers are dead, but the women and children the Daish militants left behind will live to pay the price for their actions.

As the Daish days of ruling over vast swathes of Iraq come to an end, questions are emerging about what to do with their families.

For now, many of them are effectively imprisoned in a rubbish-strewn encampment east of Mosul, where the last people to be displaced from the city have been taken.

“All the men were killed,” said 62-year-old Umm Hamoudi, who fled the Midan district last week with 21 members of her family — all women and children.

Her husband, a Daish member, was wounded in the fighting for the Old City. They tried to carry him off the battlefield but he was too heavy, so they said goodbye and left him there to die.

Displaced civilians are returning home to rebuild their lives, but those who suffered three years of extreme violence and privation under the Daish say the militants’ relatives have no place among them.

Leaflets threatening militants’ families have appeared in areas retaken from the Daish, and vigilantes have thrown grenades at their homes.

“Revenge is not a cure,” said Ali Iskander, the head of the Bartella district where the camp is located. “These families should undergo rehabilitation courses” .

Local authorities in Mosul recently issued a decree to exile Daish families to camps so they can be rehabilitated ideologically.

But rights groups say collective punishment undermines the prospects for reconciliation after the Daish, and risks fostering a generation of outcasts with no stake in Iraq.

“If we isolate them, how will we bring them back into the fold of the nation?” said a local official visiting the camp on Saturday. “They will become Daish”.

Umm Hamoudi’s daughter was only 14 years old when her father married her off to a Daish militant.

He too was killed around one year ago while the girl was pregnant with her first child, who lay sleeping on the floor of the tent, oblivious to the stigma that will likely cloud the rest of her life.

Umm Suhaib, 32, last heard from her husband two months ago. “He is certainly dead,” she said, showing no emotion.

She threatened to leave him when he joined the Daish around one year after the group took over, but did not because of their four children.

A devout Muslim, her husband was seduced by the idea of a modern-day caliphate, and offered his skills as an engineer in service of Daish’s state-building project. He came to regret his decision, Umm Suhaib said, but by then it was too late. “He wasted his life and threw ours away with it,” she said. “We are lost now”.

Like other women whose male relatives joined the Daish, Umm Suhaib said she was powerless to stop him.

“I have no authority over them,” 50 year-old Fatima Shihab Ahmed said of her two brothers who joined the group. She believes one of them is still alive in the militant-held city of Tel Afar, which Iraqi forces plan to assault next.

Ahmed is also a suspect herself: a neighbour’s son accused her of working for the Daish’s  morality police known as the Hisba, which punished women who broke the militants’ strict dress code. She denies it.

Reuters