The Schindler of Mosul: Heroic conman Abu Shehad posed as Isis henchman to rescue sex slaves

Man poses as jihadi to rescue female sex slaves from Isis in Mosul

Abu Shehad is said to have saved several women from Isis

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

As the Islamic State caliphate continues to crumble, a tale of heroism and ingenuity has emerged to rival that of Oskar Schindler's defiance of the Nazis during the Second World War.

Abu Shehad wanted to do his bit to scupper the hated jihadi group, but as a mere peasant living on the outskirts of Mosul, his power seemed limited.

Until one day he came upon a simple but brilliant scheme to spike the Isis machine, and save a number of innocent lives in the process.

Shehad decided to grow his beard and adopt the costume worn by Isis militants. He began to drive into Mosul and pick up women who had been snared as sex slaves by the jihadist oppressors. One by one he spirited them out, living on his wits to baffle the militants when they asked him any questions about where he was taking the women.

"During the day I would collect the women and take them to my house on the outskirts," he told El Mundo. "There we would wait until nightfall to escape. Other times they [collaborators] would bring me them by car."

In total Shehad claims to have helped at least 12 women and their children escape from Isis over recent months. The women came with horrific stories of rape and beating at the hands of their Isis oppressors.

One of the women saved by Abu Shehad, a Yazidi girl captured during the Isis advance of 2014, says "They kidnapped all my sisters, my female cousins and all the women of the village. They herded us into various hamlets until the terrorists arrived. Each of them chose a girl and we separated.

"The one that picked me was called Faras and he had another wife, a follower of Daesh [Isis]. He worked as a guard at a weapons plant. That couldn't be called living. He dished out continues beatings to ensure I obeyed but I was not scared. They'd killed my dad and my brother, and we still don't know where they are buried. I couldn't lose any more than I'd already lost."

Another woman who Abu Shehad helped escape says "I spent nearly three years with a terrorist and his family. He raped me and he made me convert to Islam. He hit me relentlessly."

Eventually "Abu Shehad came to the house and the other women took the opportunity to escape as well. I was traumatised by the idea that they would arrest us during the escape but he knew the route really well."

During these escapes, Shehad's lies were so convincing that militants would simply let him pass when he spun them his lies. But one day the plan threatened to unravel when some Isis members became suspicious and attacked Shehad's house. He was tortured as Isis soldiers tried to make him admit to releasing Yazidis, but he would not do so.

Isis were unable to find any witnesses of Shehad releasing Yazidis, so let him go rather than killing him. After this experience he says he became much more wary; indeed, he declined some rescue missions because he doubted the credibility of the women calling him, and feared they were leading him into a trap.

Eventually Isis was driven out of Mosul, and Abu Shehad could finally drop his heroic con trick. He says the last rescue mission was completed on June 5.

"After this", he says, "Mosul was liberated and my work wasn't needed any more."

Yet one suspects his legend will only grow over time, just as Schindler's has burgeoned since the dark days of the Holocaust. Given Hollywood's fetish for war stories at present, the incredible journey of Abu Shehad might be gracing the big screen before too long.