It has been nine months since Iraqi forces have taken back the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and East Mosul has begun to come back to life. However, while men and women enjoy the pleasures of their new freedom, West Mosul is still recovering just a short two miles away.
Up until ISIL forces had a foothold in Mosul, al-Qaida terrorized the city with kidnappings and killings. Then in 2014, Mosul was taken by ISIL forces and declared a caliphate. Beginning in late 2016, Iraqi forces began to work to take back the city. It took nine long months of lives lost and neighborhoods destroyed to finally declare victory over ISIL on both sides of Mosul on July 9th, 2017. However, East Mosul was liberated much easier than West Mosul across the Tigris River, which was left devastated and has not yet been able to recover.
Obvious evidence of the fighting still lingers. The main bridges connecting East to West Mosul, for example, have been replaced by floating bridges since U.S. airstrikes destroyed them in order to stop ISIL forces from escaping. Furthermore, the once picturesque skyline has been fractured into pieces; shattered rooftops and buildings scorched black are now common throughout the city. Electricity and running water are still not available in West Mosul and many residents have attempted to dig wells in order to repair their damaged homes.
Since the devastation, many public services have gone by the wayside, one of the most important being schools. While some schooling is available in refugee camps for internally displaced Iraqis, some children have decided to instead stay home and help their families, like Ahmed Abdelsatter. His family lost their home in the fighting and the 17-year-old has now become the breadwinner, selling ice cream in a refugee camp. Along with the fact that many children are preoccupied with family issues, the makeshift schools lack teachers, supplies and books, making education even more different to access.
Thankfully, just last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that the first major delivery of aid made it to West Mosul. ICRC has aimed to reach 64,000 citizens of West Mosul that have been severely impacted by the fighting.
While this brings promise, others from East Mosul have suggested fixing the roads from the two parts of the city in order for the people to begin “rebuilding themselves.” These are just the early stages of what will be a long fight in rebuilding the entire city of Mosul. Hopefully, with the help of both international and local organizations, West Mosul’s skyline will transform back to its pre-2014 days, and Mosul can once again be whole.
– Sydney Roeder