Alrassed International Humanitarian Newsletter November 2016
Civilians of Mosul between IS Control and Liberation
By Dr Bilal Alobaidi
Mosul is considered as one of the largest cities in the province of Nineveh in northern west of Iraq. About half the population in Nineveh which is estimated to be of 3.2 million live in the city of Mosul. They also belong to different ethnic groups such as Arab Sunnah, Kurd Sunnah, Turkman Sunnah, Christians, Yazidis, Shia Turkman and shabak.
In June 2014, the Islamic state (IS) took over the Mosul and the outlying districts and small villages surrounding the city imposing radical sharia rules. Minorities migrated out of Mosul suburbs while people of the city opted to stay since all the other neighbouring cities were already under the control of IS apart from Kurdistan (Erbil and Duhook) since June 2014. Fleeing people specifically Arabs from Mosul who wanted to settle in Kurdish cities had to face complicated restrictions and dire living conditions imposed by the government of Kurdistan.
The next phase then followed and people of Mosul found themselves held as captives in their own city, men were not allowed to shave their beards or smoke cigarettes and must dress according to sharia. Women were covered in black veils and were not allowed to leave their houses unless accompanied by men. Anyone who tries to escape the city would either be brutally punished or sentenced to death. Few weeks later, the international coalition forces and the Iraqi army bombed locations were IS were mainly situated. University of Mosul and the city hospital were among the places that were bombarded and this has led to destruction of the city infrastructure further complicating the situation. The Iraqi government then made a an abrupt decision of not paying salaries for employees which caused living costs to raise inflicting an additional burden on the people of the Mosul who had already made the difficult decision of staying in the city. Suffering continued in the absence of proper health services and now the IS became even more offensive imposing radical sharia ruling, arresting and executing hundreds of civilians who used to work for the Iraqi government.
Last month, October 2016, the general commander of Iraqi armed forces Prime Minister Haider Alabadi announced the launch of military operations to liberate Mosul with the participation of Iraqi forces,
Kurds Peshmerga, and Shia militias, AlHashad Al-Shaabi known as popular mobilization. Military operations, also, received consultation and support from international coalition air forces. Since then, the safety of the people of Mosul (1.5million) was and still a major concern in particular when crossings out of the city for people fleeing the fight were not secured. The IS raised their tactics by using civilians as human shields and attacking Iraqi forces through suicidal jihadist who sometimes dress as civilians, this in many incidents has caused confusion and lead to innocents deaths. A CNN video emerged last week where a taxi driver was shot and killed in cold blood by the Iraqi forces and so, the civilians of Mosul being in the middle of a battlefield face death from all sides, from IS, the Iraqi forces and through air strikes by the coalition forces.
Due to the other conflicts in the region whether in Syria or Iraq between Turkey, Iran, Russia and other countries, the city of Mosul became the focus of the interest because of many geopolitical reasons and the fears of the demographic changes that might affect the security and stability of the city and the area in general after beating IS. These conflicts either external by Iran and Turkey as they both trying to play a major role in Syria and Iraq or internal by Kurdistan government who want to seize the opportunity of the Iraqi government being in a weak position and expand their proposed state. The current situation raise a real fear that the city will not be secure and stable even after liberation from IS and not expected to return and regain the same borders that existed before June 2014
Therefore, the Iraqi government as well as the international humanitarian organizations need to play a vital role in securing places with proper infrastructure for the civilians whom expected to flee from Mosul and provide urgent humanitarian and medical aid and work very closely with the Iraqi forces to prevent any arrests of civilians, torture and revenge that might take place, the same way as it happened in Falluja.
More effort and support would be needed later to rebuild the city and reconstruction of the infrastructures to help people return to their houses. There will be a huge demand for social and psychological efforts to achieve historical reconciliation and restoration of civil peace and build confidence among all of the diverse groups of Mosul people.