We live in a post-heroic age, as we have been taught by political scientists and sociologists for some time, but we don’t know for sure whether this thesis is due to a sober analysis or the wishful thinking of its authors. What is certain, however, is that heroism has long fallen into disrepute in our part of the world. The figure of the hero who puts life and health at risk for a community or an idea is at best a quixotic fool, at worst as a gloomy fanatic.
With the proclamation of post-heroism, masculinity was dismantled. Traditional male virtues such as a willingness to take risks, courage, stoicism, a thirst for adventure or resistance to pain have been redefined by generations of feminist academics as ideological constructs of a patriarchal power strategy, and mocked as the trimmings of a fascist mental armor. The little boy who dreams of becoming a hero and killing a dragon is actually suffering from the gender-specific hereditary disease “toxic masculinity” and is a case for therapy and gender education.
Who will stand against the dragon?
But who should, after such a detox, if successful, still want to oppose the dragon, would it actually appear? Who else would have the strength to be a hero? The man-haters have no answer to this question, although it arises again and again in real life. For example, in Mosul in northern Iraq in June six years ago.
The city on the banks of the Tigris was stormed by the warriors of the Islamic State (IS) without encountering serious resistance. The government officers had left their troops in the lurch and ran away, and the majority of the population was petrified. The IS was preceded by the reputation of invincibility and merciless cruelty.
One of the nearly three million city residents was Omar Mohammed, then 28, who recently became a lecturer in history at the University of Mosul. He is Sunni, like the city’s conquerors, but fellow religious faculty members had criticized his views as secular before. Omar had reason to flee, but he decided to stay. He wants to report on life under the rule of IS. He wants to hold onto the truth – for the people in Mosul, for the outside world and for the time after the disaster. On the blog that he sets up, he gives himself the name Mosul Eye, as avatar he chooses the Assyrian patron deity Lamassu, a winged bull.
Greedy for blood, money and women
There is a lot to report. The holy warriors immediately set about rigorously enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. First, women accused of prostitution are stoned and shot. Then homosexuals are thrown from skyscrapers. The Shiites are robbed and killed, the Christians are robbed and killed or driven out, the Yazidis are robbed and killed, and their girls and women are sold in public slave markets. The IS is a “killing machine,” states Mosul Eye. “They are greedy for blood, money and women.”
Omar forces himself to watch the beheadings, crucifixions, amputations and flogging in public. He notes the place, date, accusation as well as the names of the victims and the perpetrators. He cannot publish all information on his blog; that could provide clues about the informant. For example, on a hospital doctor, an old friend, who told him about the often fatal atrocities committed on Yezidi girls.
Omar also records the erasure of history by IS, the demolition of museums, libraries, monuments and tombs, such as that of the prophet Jona or Yunus from the 8th century, who according to the Bible and the Koran was swallowed by a whale before he came after was spat out alive for three days thanks to God’s grace.
Document everything, don’t trust anyone
Omar also feels like inside a whale, only that as an agnostic he cannot hope for salvation. He is completely on his own. Neither his best friends, nor his mother, nor his ten siblings are allowed to know that he is Mosul Eye. “Document everything, don’t trust anyone” is his working principle.
His blog is one of the few independent voices from the isolated blood caliphate. The media from all over the world orientate themselves on him, the secret services consult him. And IS also reads it carefully. If they would get hold of him, he is told, he would wish he could die like the Jordanian pilot. He was burned alive in a cage by the IS.
Fear of death is his constant companion. In order not to attract attention, he lets his hair and beard grow, camouflaging himself with the religious divide. He writes under different identities until he no longer knows who he is. He is hallucinating. He sees the souls of the executed wandering the streets, searching in vain for their mutilated bodies. He vacillates between rebellion and despair. But he doesn’t give up.
Evidence of Hell’s Existence
After two years he lets himself be smuggled out of Mosul. A terabyte of data stored in the luggage, proof of the existence of Hell. Omar continues the fight from Turkey. For many people in Mosul, the blog means the hope for a better, more human life.
Mosul was liberated in the summer of 2017 and Omar Mohammed, who has since been granted asylum in Europe, identifies himself as the man behind Mosul Eye. He took up the fight with the dragon and defeated it at the risk of his life. With tenacity, boldness, self-control, willingness to suffer, with the virtues of a hero.