A niqab saved Abu Alawi.
For more than two-and-a-half years it helped keep the middle-aged former police officer hidden from IS and safe from the bullets and knives that killed almost all his colleagues.
When the jihadists arrived in his hometown of Hammam al-Alil in mid-2014, as they swept across northern Iraq, the first things they did was to round up police and army officers.
They killed the higher-ranking men immediately, but eventually offered an amnesty of sorts to the rest. If they renounced the government in Baghdad and pledged to live under IS rules, then they’d go free.
Abu Alawi stayed in hiding. At first in his home or a bolthole dug in his garden. But IS searches became more stringent and he realised that he’d have to move further afield.