Since jihadists were pushed out of Mosul, Mohammed has not left his home. Although he never joined the Islamic State (IS) group, he shares a name with one of its fighters and fears arrest.
Like hundreds of others, he has not dared to approach security forces for fear of being detained because of his name.
Sami al-Faisal, who runs a human rights group, said he had recorded “about 2,500 people suffering [because of] similar names” in Mosul and its surrounding province.
Personal ID cards in Iraq, like most Arab countries, carry a person’s first name, father’s name and grandfather’s name. But to determine a person’s surname and tribe, it’s often necessary to look into the area’s personal status records.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry has begun issuing new ID cards equipped with a code that enables security forces to retrieve a person’s full name on a computerised system. But in Mosul, where authorities are still struggling to restore public services after more than three years of jihadist occupation, these new digital IDs do not exist.
Ahmed Awwad al-Juburi, spokesman of the provincial bar association, is well acquainted with such cases, which can often only be unravelled by determining the names of mothers and wives, and dates of birth.
“Currently, we have identified 97 Mohammed Jassem Mohammeds,” he said. All of them can be arrested, although only one is wanted for terrorism offences.
Mohammed Ibrahim al-Bayati, who is in charge of security in the provincial council, said arrests made on the basis of three names should be halted immediately.
He said that it is necessary to identify people by their five consecutive names and to make computerised identity documents available to the people of Mosul as quickly as possible.