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Iraqi Broadcasters Who Helped Beat Islamic State

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The battle to free the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group lasted nine months.

The military operation involved hundreds of airstrikes and a difficult Iraqi-led ground offensive. Victory was finally declared last July as IS fighters were forced from the city.

A new report suggests that one reason for the operation's success was a campaign of information warfare by resistance forces. It says the campaign took on IS propagandists and destroyed the group’s image of invincibility.

Mike Stevens wrote the report, which was published by Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

Stevens is a former British army officer. He says the occupation by IS forces had a major effect on the citizens of Mosul. He noted that many people felt like they were being held hostage.

Stevens says one of the greatest tools for ending that fear was a radio station set up by two refugees, who had fled to the city of Irbil, some 80 kilometers east of Mosul.

Using a single radio transmitter, they set up Radio al-Ghad and began broadcasts for their home city.

To break Islamic State’s oppressive presence, the station combined telephone call-in programs and debate with music and talent competitions. Such events were barred during the IS occupation.

The radio station differed from other stations because it had talent shows, which “come out of pain,” noted Mourad Khan in 2017. He served as a radio host.

Radio al-Ghad also offered ground intelligence to coalition forces, and even debated with IS commanders in its programs.

“What they did was give people space to speak. And give people space to debate, like a community radio station,” the report said.

The station fought with IS for control of the airwaves, which led to “them actually being in a dominant position,” Stevens said.

Resistance groups throughout Mosul united under a common sign: the Arabic letter 'M' for 'Muqawama,' or resistance, which began to appear on streets across the city.

After listening to the radio station, many people were moved to personal acts of civil disobedience, such as a graffiti campaign. Iraqis began marking up and writing messages on the walls of the city. Stevens says acts like these offered hope to the people of Mosul.

The battle on the radio for Mosul’s population offers examples for other conflict areas.

“We’re at risk of becoming not very good at doing this at all because we’re losing a connection with local people,” Stevens noted. He also said that fighting war from a distance, with the help of computers, has added to the problem.

The report says that repeating the success of Mosul’s non-violent resistance would only be possible with long-term deployment of ground troops and the freedom to talk directly with local people.

I'm Susan Shand.

Henry Ridgewell reported this story for VOA News. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

invincibility – n. impossible to defeat or overcome

transmittern. a device that sends out radio or television signals

graffiti n. images or words painted on a wall or building

dominant adj. commanding or leading

airwave n. the radio waves used for radio broadcasts

host n. the star of a radio or television program

talent n. someone or a group of people with a special ability

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