Iraq: Mosul’s streets still unsafe
It’s been six years since the self-proclaimed Islamic State invaded the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The shelled-out homes and the rubble-lined streets are reminders of the war that raged in and around Mosul between 2014 and 2017. More than 3 million Iraqis were displaced during that time. More than two years on, approximately 1.4 million people still remain displaced internally, living in more than 30 IDP camps and informal settlements.
The extremist group has been ousted and is no longer in control, but gradually it is becoming evident that its militants are still active in the region. Many people are finding it safer to continue to stay in the camps.
Large parts of cities like Mosul remain in complete ruins. “I saw havoc in the Old City [of Mosul]. All houses and building are in complete ruin. I saw in my own eyes corpses. I saw a hand of a woman,” 61-year-old Sabiha Jassim told Reuters last year. As there also was no access to clean water or healthcare, Jassim decided to return to the Hassan Shami camp, some 15km outside Mosul. According to officials, at least 200 other families returned to the camp for similar reasons.
With the emergence of COVID-19, experts and aid groups have warned the virus, once inside the crowded camps, could spread quickly because of a lack of social distancing and other measurements needed to stop the pandemic. Last week authorities confirmed the first case of infection in a camp near Mosul.
Lack of social cohesion and security
Other reasons people choose to stay in the camps rather than return to Mosul include lack of social cohesion, livelihoods and security. Only last week, members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units arrested what they claimed to be 17 Islamic State militants in the city. It illustrates a growing concern about a resurgence of the group, especially in the face of Covid-19.
“It is almost certainly correct that COVID-19 will handicap domestic security efforts and international counter-ISIS cooperation, allowing the jihadists to better prepare spectacular terror attacks and escalate campaigns of insurgent warfare on battlefields worldwide,” the Crisis Group said in a report.
However, the reconstruction of Mosul’s monumental “Our Lady of the Hour” Church, or Al Saa’a Church, is a hopeful sign to Christians who are thinking about a return to the city, Rev. Olivier Poquillon, told Al Arabiya English. The church, as well as the Syriac Catholic Al Tahera Church and a mosque, are being rebuilt with the help of UNESCO and the UAE government. The projects involve local labour, creating job and training opportunities for some 1000 young Iraqis. “Some Christians are already working in Mosul, but the main challenge will be to rebuild trust among peoples and communities,” he said.
Many young people have been left jobless and without prospects of employment due to the years of war and now the pandemic. May they find purpose and avenues for work.
Please pray for the government to ensure safety and security for the general population.
Pray that international aid agencies and other governments can continue to invest in rebuilding Iraq.