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Slow Recovery for Iraq's Mosul After Islamic State's Ouster

(AFP) -- Two months since Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from Islamic State group fighters, Mohammed Seddiq's bullet-riddled car is still off the road and his fruit and vegetable shop has yet to reopen.

Much of Iraq's second city lies in ruins and many businesses are still at a standstill, even those that produced the famous muslin cotton fabric for which Mosul was renowned before the jihadists seized it in 2014.

Three years ago, Seddiq, 32, owned two cars, but the jihadists set fire to one and the other was damaged by mortar shells and bullets.

With all the garages still closed in his west Mosul neighbourhood, he sought out a mechanic in the industrial zone in the city's east which was less severely damaged by fighting.

He expects the repairs to cost $1,000. In the meantime he will have to pay for taxis using his savings because "the state has announced that it will reimburse for cars and houses, but up to now nothing" has been paid.

Many of the cars awaiting repairs at Ghezwan Aqil's workshop were damaged when bulldozer-driving jihadists used them to form barricades against advancing Iraqi troops.

Their owners cannot afford to buy new cars and are prepared to wait one or two months for the repairs instead.

Aqil says that sometimes he will reduce a customer's bill by half depending on their circumstances.

Even after Mosul's recapture life is uncertain and insecurity is rife.

"There have been many burglaries," says taxi driver Mohammed Salem.

"And people have been detained by unidentified groups. No one knows what happened to them," the 33-year-old adds.

"There are regular problems between the various armed forces, especially the paramilitary units," Hossam Eddine al-Abbar, a member of the provincial council of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, tells AFP.

The presence of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary units, dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, has stirred tensions in the Sunni-majority city.

'Infiltrated by terrorists'

Without genuine reconciliation between communities, there are fears that the country could once again descend into violence.

"The best way to control (armed groups) is to integrate them into the regular forces that enjoy much more trust among citizens than paramilitary forces," Abbar said.

Omar al-Allaf, a local tribal dignitary who oversees Hashed al-Shaabi units, rejects the idea.

His men will never join the police because "they are infiltrated by terrorists", he says.

In 2014, as IS staged a rapid advance across northern Iraq, police and military personnel abandoned their posts to the jihadists with barely a fight.

That allowed the group to establish its "caliphate" across parts of Syria and a third of Iraq's territory including Mosul.

Today, many police in the Iraqi city are demanding their reinstatement, but the process of identification and investigation of each one takes time, Abbar said.

"More than 13,000 policemen have yet to return to their jobs despite our requests to the authorities in Baghdad," he added.

Mosul's famed Old City was reduced to rubble by the fighting and the iconic leaning minaret of its Al-Nuri mosque, the image of which adorns the 10,000 dinar note, left in ruins.

For many of Mosul's displaced, it is impossible to envisage a return to a city where, in addition to finding nothing left of their previous life, they risk losing more.

In the past year, a million Iraqis have fled their homes in Nineveh province.

They joined millions more displaced across the country by fighting in the cities where the jihadists had seized territory.

Across the country, all are waiting for reconstruction to begin.


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