Mo­sul mar­kets both fear and hope for the fu­ture

‘Noth­ing has been re­built, not roads and not build­ings’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iraqi mer­chants and shop­pers jos­tle in the lively open-air mar­ket of Gog­jali on the eastern edges of Mo­sul, their voices of­ten drowned out by the honk­ing horns of cars. “Mo­sul will never be the same again,” sighs Yunes Ab­dul­lah, a 60-year-old for­mer sol­dier who set up a stall to re­pair tele­vi­sions and other elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances.

Mer­chants and shop­pers in Gog­jali, one of the first ar­eas to be re­taken from the ji­hadists by Iraqi forces when they launched an of­fen­sive last Oc­to­ber to re­cap­ture the coun­try’s sec­ond city, have had mixed feel­ings about what the fu­ture holds. Some peo­ple blame the au­thor­i­ties for not do­ing enough to tackle the mam­moth task of re­con­struct­ing the city, while oth­ers pray that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will be gen­er­ous with fund­ing. “The gov­ern­ment isn’t do­ing any­thing. It’s the peo­ple who clean the streets. Noth­ing has been re­built, not roads and not build­ings,” says Ab­dul­lah.

His busi­ness part­ner Amar Akram agrees. “My house was de­stroyed, and I don’t have any money to re­build it. I don’t know who to turn to for help. Who should I speak to? There are thou­sands of peo­ple like me,” he says. “They (the au­thor­i­ties) don’t help us be­cause in their eyes we are all Daesh,” Akram adds, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for the ji­hadist Is­lamic State group. Sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions can be heard through­out the mar­ket.

“They say we helped Daesh, but they know very well who al­lowed them to en­ter” the city, says a young tea-seller. In June 2014, IS seized Mo­sul and routed Iraqi forces from the area, af­ter what a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry later found was a gross mis­man­age­ment of the cri­sis by Iraqi of­fi­cials, who ig­nored am­ple warn­ings of an im­pend­ing at­tack on the city. Three years later, tens of thou­sands of mem­bers of the Iraqi forces backed by West­ern war­planes and other in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance re­took Mo­sul af­ter months of fierce fight­ing. On July 10, vic­tory was of­fi­cially de­clared in the city, which is di­vided by the Ti­gris river into eastern and west­ern parts.

In a part of the Gog­jali mar­ket where mer­chants sell mo­bile phones and spare parts for cars, Ab­dul­lah says he mis­trusts the au­thor­i­ties and claims they “em­bez­zle” gov­ern­ment funds. But he does ad­mit that “they are good at se­cu­rity”. A client who over­hears him jumps into the con­ver­sa­tion with her own the­ory of how things should play out.

“The Amer­i­cans must stay. They can in­flu­ence things. When they speak we lis­ten to them, un­like the Arabs who don’t re­spect each other,” says the seam­stress in her 40s. She says she had to “start back from zero” af­ter flee­ing the west side of Mo­sul, where Iraqi forces fought some of the fiercest bat­tles be­fore they could oust the ji­hadists. Sev­eral kilo­me­ters away, life has also re­turned to the cov­ered Nabi Yu­nis mar­ket in the city’s eastern side. A wide ar­ray of mer­chan­dise is avail­able, from cloth­ing to fruit and veg­eta­bles, cheap per­fume, hair dyes and reme­dies for los­ing weight in pack­ag­ing show­ing svelte fe­male bod­ies. “There are more prod­ucts and the prices have be­come rea­son­able,” says one male shop­per. “Un­der IS, things were three times more ex­pen­sive.” Be­hind mounds of grapes, ap­ples and pomegranates, Mo­hammed Jassem says peo­ple must be pa­tient. “The gov­ern­ment has a lot to do, and time is needed to re-or­ga­nize things and for life to re­turn to nor­mal,” he says. “The pri­or­ity should be to in­fra­struc­ture: re­build­ing hospi­tals, bridges and roads.” Ev­ery­one around him, mer­chants and shop­pers, uses the same phrase:

“In­shal­lah”-”God will­ing” in Ara­bic-se­cu­rity and re­con­struc­tion will work hand in hand to woo back hun­dreds of thou­sands of res­i­dents who fled Mo­sul. “But fi­nan­cial aid from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will also be needed,” says lin­gerie mer­chant Omar Hayani. “The gov­ern­ment does noth­ing” and is “let­ting peo­ple fend for them­selves”, says the 32-year-old, who how­ever adds that life has im­proved since the ji­hadists left. “I now feel free and happy,” he says. Un­der the bru­tal rule of IS, Hayani was sen­tenced twice to be­ing flogged be­cause in his shop win­dow he dis­played “unau­tho­rised” dum­mies, which he now proudly ex­hibits-draped in sheer dresses. “We must hope,” says Hayani. “If

MO­SUL: Iraqis shop at a mar­ket in Mo­sul’s eastern Gog­jali neigh­bor­hood. — AFP

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