National Geographic : 2017 Apr
122 national geographic • april 2017 The next day Ali was brought into an office and told to sit down. He was unrecognizable. Clean- shaven, he wore new pants and a collared shirt. At a desk in front of him sat a general, while on couch- es on either side sat officials with the Asayish, the Kurdish intelligence and security agency. “ We just have to ask you some questions,” the general said. One of the officials, a stout bald man, led the interrogation. The Asayish had informants in Mosul. He showed Ali an iPad with a Google Earth image of his street in Mosul and asked Ali to point to his house. “ There’s an ISIS house just nearby,” the inter- rogator remarked. Ali was nervous. He knew the fact that he’d waited two years to flee Mosul didn’t count in his favor. Nor did it help that he and his family had moved to Mosul from an outlying village shortly after ISIS took control of the city. He saw there was no point in trying to hide this. “ We left our village because we were worried it would be destroyed in the fighting,” he said. The interrogator was unfazed. He was more interested in why Ali had waited so long to leave the city. “ When ISIS came to Mosul, the routes to Kur- distan were still open, weren’t they?” “ We thought we couldn’t get to Kurdistan,” Ali said. The roads were said to be mined. People who tried to flee were killed. “Do you know of people from the village next to yours who joined ISIS?” the interrogator asked. “I know of two men. I know their father ’s name. I don’t know their names.” “And what about from your village?” “I know all of them.” “List them.” Ali paused for a moment. “My cousin was ISIS,” he said. Again the interrogator was unsurprised. “ Yes, we know about him.” Ali explained that he had treated his cousin’s shrapnel wounds. He hadn’t wanted to, but his cousin had insisted. He was ISIS—Ali wasn’t going to refuse. Ali was asked for phone numbers. He said he didn’t have any.