The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have banned almost all reporters from west Mosul, so there was only one story from the city. A crew from France 24 travelled with a Golden Division unit to the Tanak neighborhood on the western edge of Mosul to look for Islamic State elements. An officer went house to house interviewing families for tips on insurgents. Two young boys were taken in as a result. In most of the city these are the type of clearing operations that the ISF is doing. That’s also the reason why the Golden Division allowed this story, because it goes along with the narrative that Mosul is now safe and secure. It’s unknown whether there is still fighting going on in the Old City district because of the media blackout.
The town of Imam al-Gharbi southeast of Mosul was finally freed. After two weeks of fighting the army, Golden Division, police and local tribal units seized the town back from the militants. Coalition jets, helicopters, and several reinforcements were all called in for the operation. The ISF originally tried to play down the fight claiming that IS members were just trying to escape from Mosul. The fact that they took the town and held it for so long exposed that story.
Patrick Cockburn filed a story for the Independent from Kurdistan talking with former Foreign and Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari who claimed 40,000 civilians died in the Mosul battle. Zebari criticized the Federal Police for its indiscriminate shelling of the western side of the city. He also charged the ISF with charging bribes to get through checkpoints or to return to homes. He singled out the army’s 9th and 16th Divisions and tribal Hashd units as being the worst offenders. Musings On Iraq just calculated 13,106 civilian fatalities in the city. There were many air strikes that were not included in that count, and there were probably hundreds of people killed in the shelling and fighting that were never reported. Still, even if all those were added, it is hard to believe that four times as many people were killed. The real figure is likely never to be known since the government refuses to release casualty numbers.
There was more news on extra judicial killings going on in Ninewa. The Associated Press talked with four Iraqi officers who all said their men had killed captured IS suspects. One officer said that the ISF were regularly murdering detainees at Hamam al-Alil the main screening center for displaced in Ninewa. Human Rights Watch (HRW) talked with several international observers and Iraqis who witnessed or heard about executions in west Mosul in July. One shopkeeper was taken to a building where there were 17 corpses, and was told soldiers from the 16th Division executed them. HRW complained that the Iraqi government has done nothing about these incidents. Prime Minister Haider Abadi spoke on the matter in a speech yesterday. The premier said there had been some violations but they were individual not systematic acts. He claimed the government would punish anyone caught, but then he said some of the Iraqi forces were working with the Islamic State to defame the government and its forces. Various crimes and abuses have occurred since the war started in 2014 and Baghdad has never held anyone accountable. Abadi has often criticized human rights organizations for investigating the matters. The fact is, torture and abuse are institutionalized within the ISF and routinely occurs in all cases terrorist or otherwise and are accepted by the judiciary. Extra judicial killings are posted on Facebook and social media routinely and applauded by the public. The Islamic State brought a level of brutality to Iraq that shocked the country and world. Now Iraqis are returning the favor in kind.
Voice of America talked with a man who ran an internet shop in Mosul during the Islamic State occupation. He only had about a hundred customers, but he felt it important to keep people connected with the outside world. Residents would use their phones to check on line and then delete their information to hide it from the militants. He was one of a few who provided this important service. At the same time, he was discovered, interrogated and whipped over 60 times by IS as a result. These small forms of resistance were important to keep people’s spirits up during the three years the Islamic State ran the city.
After security is established the next big step for Mosul will be rebuilding. Lise Grande from the United Nations told the Fiscal Times that the east side of the city was already doing well. There were schools and businesses open, almost all the residents were back, and there were local contractors working to restore services, which were also employing people. West Mosul was completely different. There, 38 of the 54 residential areas were heavily to moderately damaged. That means there is far more to be done there than the east. The U.N.’s initial prediction was that it would cost $470 million to restore electricity, water, sewage, hospitals, schools and houses just in the most damaged areas. Another $237 million would be required for the other parts of the western half. That was double the amount the U.N. originally estimated, and those figures are likely to continue to rise. The U.N. has a plan to put together community groups made up of local leaders, officials, tribes, etc. They will decide which homes and buildings will get rebuilt, and which will not. The organization hopes these will also further reconciliation through dialogue in neighborhoods. The provincial government is going to start restoring services next week in the west side. The World Bank is also getting involved in the process and fast tracked projects to rebuild bridges that span the Tigris River in the middle of the city. The World Bank and foreign donors is where Iraq is hoping to raise most of the money to rebuild Mosul. They’ve raised around $300 million so far, and are going to have two conferences to ask for more. It’s unclear whether it will be able to acquire everything it needs, which will drag out the rebuilding process.
Another factor that will complicate reconstruction is the political disorder in the province. The Ninewa council is moving to remove Governor Nufal Hamadi al-Akub on corruption charges. He was just dismissed from the ruling coalition, and then questioned about illegal activities. Former Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi has been raised as a possible replacement. Ironically, he was removed from office for corruption charges in August 2016. Disagreements in the governorate will complicate planning for putting Mosul and Ninewa back together.
IRIN followed a mobile judge working in Ninewa. Judge Khalid al-Shimari is one of two magistrates in his section of the province that is travelling to displacement camps to help people with marriages, births, and most importantly getting new government documents that they lost. Without those papers people can’t get any aid from the authorities like food rations, or get through checkpoints. Judge Khalid said the judicial situation in the governorate was a “disaster” because the courts were completely overwhelmed with cases.
The Displacement Ministry is trying to encourage the displaced (IDPs) to return to their homes. It is giving seminars at IDP camps to get people to move back. The U.N. interviewed people after the presentation. Some said that they had nothing to go back to because their homes were destroyed, they had no money left, and didn’t feel like they would move until services were back, and the economy was running again. Another issue the U.N. raised was that the Displacement Ministry has no programs for people who go back. It also has not provided the monthly payments it’s supposed to provide IDPs probably because of the government’s budget problems.
Finally, the IDP camp set up in Bartella for IS families that were kicked out of other areas of Ninewa was closed after just a week operating. There were 900 families there at its peak. They were either sent to other camps or to east Mosul. To show how arbitrary these expulsions were 80 orphan children were sent to Bartella. They are now with foster families. Ninewa is just one of many provinces that is forcing relatives of IS members out. The provincial government opened the Bartella camp to take care of them, but it had no services, probably for a lack of funds. Now these families have moved on, which begs the question of why they were forced out to begin with. More importantly this practice is still on going, and what will happen to these families in the future is completely up in the air. PM Abadi told officials to stop this practice, but no one paid attention, and now he denies that it is happening. Again, IS has damaged Iraqi society so much that families that might have done nothing are being punished because of the desire for retribution.
Baghdad Post, “Forces’ corruption allows ISIS terrorists to freely reign in Iraq,” 7/19/17
- “Former defense minister tapped for Nineveh governorship,” 7/19/17
- “Reconstruction of Mosul’s right bank to start next week – Cabinet,” 7/19/17
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