Larry Hart

The Heroes of Mosul


Disclaimer: In response to some who are concerned that this might endanger people behind enemy lines.  No one in this piece is compromised. All names have been changed. All stories about individuals are not current. All currently fluid situations are not discussed in this piece. I was assured by the Executive Director of RINJ that these snippets of stories will not endanger anyone. RINJ needs and wants the publicity. Check them out. They need money. They need people who are rough enough to engage. Like all war stories these need to be told.

Amidst bombed out buildings, the rumble of large explosions in the far off distance with the occasional rat a tat tat of machine gun fire, and the faint smell of cordite in the air along with all the other putrid smells of war, something special is going on in occupied Mosul, Iraq. Taken by IS last summer, a highly strategic city because of its oil refinery capabilities, a group of very courageous individuals, the vast majority of which are women, are carrying on the work of heroes.

This is not the free world, like the United States or what’s left of an independent Europe. This is the world of Jihadist Islam.  Murder, rape and torture are very common and thought of as always “ok” as long as it’s done in Allah’s name. I don’t think this is the new world order most of us were expecting but, shrug your shoulders people, this is what we got.

The doctors, nurses and volunteers of the group, “Rape is No Joke” (RINJ) run a series of clinics in and around the city to take in those that are sick, injured or something worse. The clinics are tolerated by IS commanders behind their lines because RINJ takes in injured IS fighters and makes them better if possible as they are only ones that will work on ISIS.

It’s a quid pro quo, RINJ is able to continue their all-important work and the bad guys get their war wounds healed.  More than that some of the western girls that work in the clinics are some of the best eye candy these sand dwellers have ever seen.

What’s better for an IS soldier of Allah than a long day of beheading innocent people, killing teenage boys for playing soccer and raping little Azidi girls, than looking at some western female he knows doesn’t carry the same moral code as Muslim girls. But, somehow these brave women, with a balls to the wall attitude about the enemy, coerce, cajole when necessary, and smile when they absolutely have to, to get out of any the situation and get what they need and want.

It’s done in a way no man could. That brings me to the most important part of RINJs goals and is central to their mission statement.

RINJ has two goals in Mosul as well as other war zones. They “medically support survivors of sexual violence and attempt to identify combatants who rape so that (they) can (under UN Res 1820) have them prosecuted as war criminals.”

Hidden from view of ISIS, and most others as well, is the rescue of girls who are raped, mostly by ISIS but not exclusively. They are badly in need of some support as well as medical attention and they get that in the confidential safety of RINJ safe houses and treatment centers. Dozens of these young women, some as young as nine or ten are taken in and given treatment for their wounds, fed, clothed and sent back into their societies if possible. RINJ, by sticking their own necks out into harms’ way, have created a safe Island on a murderous brutal sea.

Girls and women who are raped receive two devastating blows with this crime. One is the crime itself. It knows no boundaries. Rape for women in the Muslim world crushes the human dignity of the victims no less than it does in the western world. “Rape is rape,” is readily used as a slogan by RINJ.

And two, a girl who is raped and loses her virginity is in some cases thought of as shameful to the family no matter if losing her virginity was her intention or not. In the Muslim world this sometimes ends in death by the girl’s father or brothers—honor killing.  That tenth century backward rule of Muslim culture that serves as a proof text Islam is probably centuries away from the same enlightenment the west went through five hundred years ago.

Each volunteer member working in Mosul puts his or her own safety on the line in this work. But, they are so dedicated to helping these victims that it doesn’t matter. They believe in what they are doing.

RINJ operates a number of small clinics around the city. Sometimes a shell game of sorts is played. When ISIS moves in too close to one of their clinics that are housing rape victims, to avoid detection they go out the back door, sometimes leaving valuable equipment and medicine behind. They  move to a new location which has already  been scouted out and declared safe. Then when the IS guys move out, they return to either move back in or at least get their equipment and supplies they left behind.

But, its not like there is never any interaction between them.  RINJ has a particular young Kurdish lady we will call Adan. She is very good at talking to IS and getting them to let RINJ through check points or to do what they want. It usually results in some negotiation, ending in either money (Bakshish) food stuffs, or some of the supplies that RINJ is carrying. But, in this way, the girls have been able to continue.

For a while they had a truck, a medium size stake side flatbed truck maybe a ten or twelve footer. They loaded it up with the most rancid garbage they could find. I have it on good authority that this thing smelled so bad that you could pick it up a block away. When the RINJ driver came to check points in the city the IS guys would just wave him through. In fact they encouraged him to do so with their Kalashnikovs. The smell was so bad they wanted nothing to do with it. “The Daeish scream at him ‘hurry up old man.’” 

A good system RINJ was able to transport valuable supplies that would not be confiscated by the enemy. Food, medicine, sometimes even people who IS might have been looking for. It was a beautiful thing.

A lot of these RINJ women volunteers might not be perfect. They are not religious Christians trying to save those more unfortunate than themselves–I don’t even know if these women practice religion at all. Looking at some of their pics on their facebook pages, scantily dressed, in provocative poses, I get the feeling they are not “saved”, I get the feeling they don’t want to be “saved.” They are much too busy “saving” others to worry about such things.

Albert Schweitzer’s famous statement of “You don’t have to be an angel to be a saint,” certainly applies to the women of RINJ in Mosul.

Michele, a nurse,  catches the fancy of one of the IS fighters. He is always saying little things to her, she smiles as if she likes the attention. But, the trick is to keep the bastard an arm’s length away. Michele handles the young Belgian jihadi who speaks broken English with kid gloves, for the obvious reasons.  I am told if he gets too close where he  cannot be convinced playfully to leave her alone and assaults her, she will kill him with the knife she carries strapped to her leg just for that purpose.

It may be hard to believe but even the heroes of Mosul have heroes. An Israeli American we will call Lisa. She is not a nurse or a doctor but she has the utmost respect of everyone who works in the hospital. Never swaying or faltering, she maintains calm even in the most precarious of situations. She is admired by all. An adventurer by nature, Lisa went to Israel as a young Jewish woman looking for her homeland. Like many Israelis she understands better than most what the Kurds are up against in this war. She came to help. Her Israeli army training is not lost on the people she works with. She is an inspiration to everyone there.

As we sit in the comfort of our living rooms staring at a screen and sometimes complain because that coffee latte’ you just ordered is missing the whip cream, or your dinner is cold, or you can’t take a shower because the ones before you used up the hot water, know that there are some who look at evil right in the face and tell it to go f..k off. We all owe the Heroes of Mosul a debt of gratitude. Framed in a paradox, the best of humanity is standing against the world’s worst doing what must be done, not for glory but because it’s the right thing to do.

So, the war ravages on. While fighting Kurds do their best with what they have to beat back the enemy, RINJ patches their wounds and secretly tends to the young women who have had everything taken from them by the enemy.  They continue to work under fire. They are there now. With grace and courage they will stay until the day is won.

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About the Author
Larry Hart has been writing and commenting on Jewish issues since 1985. His body is in the U.S., but his heart is in Israel.