Secret scholar who battled Islamic State goes public

His mother didn’t know that “her Omar” had been working as an undercover historian, documenting atrocities committed by the Islamic State group inside Mosul. But she wasn’t totally surprised when her son told her his secret.

Amid tears, she said, “I knew there was something going on with you.”

Omar Mohammed, 31, disclosed in an Associated Press story Thursday that he is the man behind the legendary and widely read Mosul Eye, the pseudonym under which he wrote the catalog of horrors that was life under Islamic State fanatics.

After Mohammed told tens of thousands of Twitter and Facebook followers that he was Mosul Eye, post after post thanked him, blessed him and welcomed him with a single word: Hero.

Anonymous for more than three years, Mohammed wandered the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and deaths by stoning, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.

By night, he was Mosul Eye, and from his darkened room he told the world what was happening. If caught, he knew he would be killed.

But over three years, his double life grew too heavy to bear. His secrets consumed him, sapping the energy he needed to work on his doctoral dissertation and to help Mosul rebuild. In face-to-face conversations with AP reporters over the course of two months, he agonized over how to end the anonymity.

The day he revealed his identity to the world, Mohammed told AP: “I feel free.”

He received scores of media requests, and on Facebook and Twitter, his fans poured out their feelings.

Tahani Saleh posted on Facebook: “When death was sweeping over us, you said: We are the life. I am very proud of you, Omar.”

Bella Oskar, a member of the “Women of Mosul” Facebook group, wrote, “I used to…

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