Mosul, Iraq, comes back to life 10 years after its fall to ISIS

By Timour Azhari and Khalid Al-Mousily

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – It was the simple act of watering flowers at night on his street in Mosul’s Old City that made Saqr Zakaria stop and think about the safety of this last bastion of militants of the Islamic State since its liberation in 2007. 2017.

“I thought for a moment, ‘Where am I?'” said Zakaria, who left the city in 2005 but returned to establish a cultural center, the Baytna Foundation, in 2018, at a time when Thousands of bodies were still being evacuated. the ruins.

The jihadist group declared its caliphate at the al-Nuri Grand Mosque just down the street after seizing Mosul a decade ago, imposing an extreme form of Islam that saw them kill members of minority groups, ban the music and destroy archaeological sites.

The maze of alleys in this part of the city, on the west bank of the Tigris River, became a site of regular killings, kidnappings and crimes with the rise of Islamist insurgents after the 2003 US-led invasion .

Much of it was pulverized and thousands of civilians were killed in the battle to liberate it.

But despite internal political struggles, allegations of corruption and delayed reconstruction, life is resuming on both sides of the river.

Most of the more than two dozen people who spoke to a Reuters reporter during a four-night visit to the city said they felt safer today than at any time during of the last two decades.

“Life was about eating, sleeping and locking your door so you wouldn’t be kidnapped, killed or blown up. We were deprived, and today we are making this up,” Zakaria said. His foundation, housed in a traditional Moslawite house with an interior courtyard, has become a major attraction for local and foreign visitors, including French President Emmanuel Macron in 2021.

Shortly after speaking, an elderly man entered the courtyard and shed tears at the sight of photos on the wall, depicting the city’s intellectual and cultural elite, reminiscent of better days.

“It’s Mosul,” Nizar Al-Khayat, a former school principal in his seventies, said hesitantly. “Whatever happens, it remains a cultured and civilized city.”

Local officials and residents say there is a long way to go before Mosul shakes off the legacy of ISIS.

Seven years after the liberation of the city, the rubble is still being cleared. Pockmarked buildings with collapsed floors and exposed rebar are still visible around Mosul. The old town is in ruins.

But bridges have been built. New restaurants have opened, where diners enjoy Lebanese cuisine and sway to the nostalgic sounds of Syrian tenors.

A riverside souk and cafes buzz with life until late at night, previously unthinkable in a city where people holed up at home in the late afternoon.

Even as the city works to restore basic infrastructure, it is focused on expanding green spaces and tourist attractions, such as a new riverside corniche, said Firas al-Sultan, technical adviser to the city. municipality of Mosul.

Monuments to the city’s rich interfaith history, such as…

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