Our team visited Mosul last week to assess the reality of the current security situation in the destroyed remains. As you can imagine the feedback was a mixture of morbid stories and images of a broken region torn apart by the ravages of war, but there was also talk of hope for Mosul. Hope that post liberation the government and international agencies will work together not only to rebuild the city’s physical buildings and infrastructure and relink utilities, but also rebuild the relationships and emotional scars that have been lodged amongst the local tribes and families caught in the dirty reality of fighting a war on their doorstep.
ISIS controlled the northern area in and around Mosul for three years and it was only liberated 6 months ago. Some families claim that their men had little choice but to work for ISIS to earn a living to feed their families, whether to fight or make their tea and clean up after them. This is no excuse, but rather a reality. A number of ISIS families have now moved back into the area and are living side by side with families loyal to the Iraqi government.
Tensions are high.
In some cases, the hospitals run by international agencies treat ISIS fighters and their families who lie next to local men and women who ironically had their lives destroyed by ISIS. Security is ever-present and police are on alert.
The temporary jails where they hold ISIS fighters until sending them to Baghdad are terrible; no beds, no air conditioning, just one toilet outside that they can use once a day. 400 ISIS men are interred here and the Red Cross enter to assess the health of the detainees regularly. Those who are in a bad state are moved to the hospital for medical attention. There is no discrimination here by the international agencies. They help and administer medical care to those who need it, no matter their political or religious leaning.
There are over 300,000 refugees staying in various camps in Hamam Al Alil run by a range of NGO’s, near where the old university used to stand. This is where ISIS first proclaimed its Islamic State and subsequently shut down one of the Middle East’s biggest research and education centres. But not before using personnel files against professors and students, dissecting the curriculum, instigating segregated classes, purging books and symbols that defied their version of Islam, burning whole collections of its archives and destroying any chance of an education for students at a university that had only just started to get on its feet after the previous instability.
The picture below shows hope. Hope as students are returning to classes. Hope that the UN are helping to renovate buildings for education, as well as residential use. For those that are living the nightmare of post ISIS destruction, things are far from normal, but with teachers setting up makeshift classrooms, students can attempt to have some structure in their day, taking one step at a time to rebuild their lives, not just a city.