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Kurds Mine Islamic State Battlefields for Museum


A Kurdish fighter holds a stuffed teddy bear, used to conceal a weapon. It's just one item gathered from battles against Islamic State militants and to be displayed as part of a museum in Duhok, Iraq. (VOA/Kawa Omar)

A Kurdish fighter holds a stuffed teddy bear, used to conceal a weapon. It's just one item gathered from battles against Islamic State militants and to be displayed as part of a museum in Duhok, Iraq. (VOA/Kawa Omar)

The Kurdish Peshmerga military is showing off the spoils of war – items confiscated in battles with the Islamic State.

Locals call it the “IS Museum.” The collection, located in Duhok, Iraq, includes over five hundred different weapons, assorted gear, books, and other items collected in eight frontlines of Nineveh province in northern Iraq since mid-2014 in warfare with IS fighters.

Kurdish troops say they hope the exhibit gives Kurdish people a better insight into IS’s military capabilities and their battle strategies ahead of a major military operation planned to retake Mosul from IS.

“We want our friends to know how lethal these weapons can be and [that] they should stay away from them,” said Bewar Khalid, a member of the Kurdish forces.

The idea for the exhibit came from the massive amounts of equipment and paraphernalia IS left behind as it retreated from U.S. coalition bombings and Kurdish offensives.​

At first, 130 Kurdish fighters from the engineering division of the Peshmerga ministry began collecting IS improvised explosives devices to assess how IS manufactured them.

The homemade IS explosives are created from – among other things - children’s toys, gas canisters, iron pipes and tin cans. IS mass produced the explosives, often planting them as landmines around territories it controlled.

Collecting those items from the battlefield often came with much danger. The team was faced with direct IS attacks on several occasions.

“We witnessed a lot on the way,” said Kurdish fighter Dlovan Salih. “One time we found a cellphone that IS turned into an explosive that could blast if someone called it. An IS fighter called the phone a few minutes after we discharged it.”

In time, the team of Kurdish troops confiscated a variety of IS weapons, uniforms and assorted literature.

Some of the literature includes pamphlets that provide specific instructions on how to abuse sex slaves, have intercourse according to Sharia law, and what clothes are acceptable for women to wear.

Some of the documents are residence permits IS issued for its foreign fighters.

“We’ve brought here whatever we could obtain,” Kurdish commander Nawzad Hassan said in an interview with VOA.

The military is enlisting the help of French museum curators to help create display cases and make the items accessible internationally. That, Hassan hopes, will increase the visitor count which so far has been sparse.

“We hope future generations always remember what IS has done."

A Kurdish fighter holds a stuffed teddy bear, part of a collection of items gathered from battles against Islamic State militants and to be displayed as part of a museum in Duhok, Iraq. (VOA/Kawa Omar)

A Kurdish fighter holds a stuffed teddy bear, part of a collection of items gathered from battles against Islamic State militants and to be displayed as part of a museum in Duhok, Iraq. (VOA/Kawa Omar)

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