Marc Lopez and his wife have four grandchildren, aged between two and ten, who have been detained with their mother in a camp in north-east Syria for nearly three years. There are around eighty French women and two hundred children detained in camps in Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled region near the Iraqi border. All the women, alleged to have joined Islamic State, are wanted on an international arrest warrant issued by French magistrates. On 21 February, a dozen of them began a hunger strike ‘to protest against the stubborn refusal of the French authorities to organise their repatriation and the repatriation of their children’, according to a statement issued by their solicitors, Marie Dosé and Ludovic Rivière. They say the women ‘are only asking for one thing: to be put on trial for what they have done’.
Baghdadi was born in the Samarra countryside in Iraq to a family of pastoral farmers who claimed they could trace their ancestry back to the prophet Muhammad. As a young man he had been an aloof theology student and football coach. After the invasion and occupation of Iraq he was imprisoned for ten months in Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca. He emerged a fanatic of the jihadist insurgency. In 2006 the US assassinated the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi’s successor was assassinated by the US in April 2010. Baghdadi took control of the group a month later.
When Islamic State moved into Mosul in 2014, Omar Mohammed observed and documented everything he could, from public executions to the inner workings of the hospitals. And even though it put his life in danger, he posted many of his observations online using the handle ‘Mosul Eye’. He is now concerned that the history of the city under IS could be compromised. After the 2016 operation to drive out the caliphate, the New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi took nearly 16,000 documents produced during IS rule – everything from birth certificates to judicial rulings – stuffed them into bin bags, and flew them back to New York. In Mohammed’s view, the history of Iraq, and of Mosul in particular, has too often been told and controlled by outsiders.