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Iraq: in Mosul “liberated”, life is slow to resume its course

Ⓒ AFP – SAFIN HAMED – | A car riddled with bullet holes, in a street in Mosul-East, on 6 September 2017 in Iraq

The Mosul district where Mohammed Seddiq works was “liberated” in early July. Yet, two months later, this Iraqi still can not reopen his shop of fruits and vegetables because his car, damaged by the fighting, is still at the stop.

Like Mohammed’s stall, most businesses and especially industries, which were the pride of its two million inhabitants before the entry of the jihadists in 2014, are still at a standstill. Even those who produced the famous muslin, those fine cotton fabrics that have made the reputation of the great city in the north of the country.

For once the jihadis have been driven out, for the inhabitants of the second city of Iraq, the return to the life before the group Islamic State (EI) is a journey of the combatant.

Three years ago, Mohammed Seddiq, 32, owned two cars: one was burnt by the jihadists and the other was damaged by mortar shells and bullets lodged in the silver gray body.

From his western neighborhood of Mosul, where “no reopened garage”, he had to go to the industrial zone of the east of the city, less affected by the fighting than the west, looking for of a mechanic.

Ⓒ AFP – SAFIN HAMED – | of cars damaged by fighting in a garage in East Mosul, on 6 September 2017 in Iraq

“The repairs will surely cost 1,000 dollars” and by then he will have to “pay for taxi races by drawing in the savings”, because “the state announced that it would reimburse cars and houses, here nothing “was paid.

– ‘Burglaries’ –

To arrange his customers, Rezouane Aqil, a mechanic, ensures to divide “often by two” the invoice that presents to them. Some have their car repaired by the bulldozers of the jihadists who used them to form dams in front of the advance of the Iraqi troops.

Ⓒ AFP – SAFIN HAMED – | A mechanic repairs a vehicle damaged by the fighting, on 6 September 2017 in East Mosul, Iraq

They are willing to wait sometimes “a month or two”, according to Mr. Aqil, for repairs. It is impossible for them to pay today the price of a car.

Because in Mosul, even “liberated”, nothing is safe. “There have been many burglaries,” says taxi driver Mohammed Salem. “And people have been arrested by unidentified groups. No one knows what they have become,” the 33-year-old Iraqi told AFP.

“There are regular problems between the various armed forces, especially the paramilitary units,” Hossam Eddine al-Abbar, a member of the provincial council, told AFP.

In the city, which is predominantly populated by Sunnis, the presence of so-called “popular mobilization” units, some of which are dominated by the Shiites, does not go without friction. And without genuine reconciliation between communities, the country could once again switch to violence, experts warn.

– Police ‘infiltrated’ –

“The best way to control (armed groups) is to integrate them into the regular forces that enjoy far more confidence from citizens than non-professional forces,” Abbar said.

No question, retorts Omar al-Allaf, a local tribal dignitary who oversees paramilitary units. His men will never join the police because “it is infiltrated by terrorists,” he assures.

In 2014, when the jihadists fell on Mosul, the local security forces, in full collapse, dispersed.

Today, many local policemen are demanding their reinstatement, but investigations on each take time, deplored Mr. Abbar. “More than 13,000 policemen have still not found their posts despite our requests to the authorities in Baghdad,” he added.

For many of the displaced, it is impossible to envisage a return to a city where, in addition to finding nothing of their former life, they risk facing new violence.

Over the past year, a million Iraqis have fled their homes in the province of Nineveh, where Mosul is located. They joined the cohort of the three million displaced people in the country, driven from their homes by fighting in all the towns where the jihadists had taken their quarters.

Across the country, all are waiting for a reconstruction that is slow to begin.

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