The city of Mosul, the 2nd largest city of Iraq, was occupied by ISIS in june 2014. At the Al-Nuri mosque, ISIS leader Abu bakr Baghdadi declared the caliphate. Life under ISIS rule in the city was incredibly though and Mosul felt as a big prison for the residents. Breaking any of the absurdly strict rules means facing medieval punishment or even death. In 2016 the military campaign from the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga and the international coalition started to retake the city from ISIS. It was the largest military operation since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In july 2017 the city was liberated from ISIS. Due to heavy fighting and US airstrikes almost the entire old city has been laid in ruins. It was estimated that removing the explosives from Mosul and repairing the city over the next 5 years would require $50 billion, while rebuilding Mosul's Old City would cost about US$1 billion to repair. Now, more than 2 years later, repairments have been made to restore basic infrastructure like electricity, rebuilding the destroyed bridges and covering the massive holes in the road from missile strikes. Most of the homes have not been rebuild though, and people are trying to pick up their life again among these grim ruins.
A woman clambering over the debris in her street

Around 138,000 homes have been destroyed in the battle and many remain uninhabitable. Some of the homes have been repaired by NGO's but still thousands of residents are unable to return, with no homes to go back to.
Some families have returned to their home's that are in poor condition but not completely destroyed, while their neighborhood is still in ruins.

Mosul was making headlines during the battle but the displaced population who have to live in horrible conditions, either in displacement camps or the ruined homes, has been largely forgotten now. About 78 % of displaced people from Mosul report having their house damaged or completely destroyed. Around 138,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in the city during the conflict, of which in West Mosul alone still more than 53,000 houses are flattened and thousands more damaged.
A careful commercial revival is taking place. Amid the rubble more and more shops and restaurants are opening that help to resume life as normal. Organisations like the world bank are working on creating more employment opportunities.  This is a little kebab shop in one of the streets where more establishments are slowly opening. People come here to meet and chat, children are playing in the streets; it sets the direction for the life people hope to return to.
The fish market is one of the liveliest places in the old town. The bridge that connects it from the busy west part of town ends here and is sprawling with cars, busy honking and traffic jams included. In the little side streets merchants are making tahin paste, selling spices and more and more stalls with everyday groceries can be seen opening between all the closed shop shutters. The re-opening of the fish market in the Maydan area has brought back life and business to the Old City.  Except the ruins in the backdrop, the hustle and bustle of the place covers the memories of the fierce violence that took place here. The merchants say that life just goes on and they are trying to move forward. The fishermen are rebuilding the market with their own money and without government support, and all they want to do is bring back life in the Old city.


Abu Hamza Lived next to the Al Nuri mosque, now largely in ruins, the minaret blown up by ISIS themselves. 'My home was destroyed but now I am starting to live there again. When ISIS came they took it from me, made it a hospital. Then it got destroyed by airstrike. The situation was horrible, ISIS did looting, killing, raping. The christian people left, as did many other ethnicities who were able to. Now we still need a lot of work to do the rebuilding'. 


Shalan Mohammed works as a shovel driver at a construction site, is married and has kids. 'I want to be an inventor or creator, think of new products and services, maybe in medicine. But I'm not going to school. There is a lot of things I want to make, lot's of ideas in my head but there is no support.'

Mosul used to be an busy hub with a lot of factories, the economy and trade took a big hit from the war and needs time to recover.

Luckily schools are open again and at the university of Mosul great initiatives are going on to restore their precious library. ISIS completely burned down the grand library, once one of the largest of the Middle East. UNESCO called it “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”
The fierce battle for liberating the city lasted almost nine months. Thousands of people were killed and millions displaced. The street battles and aerial bombardments have caused an apocalyptic damage to the town. The amount of reconstruction needed is daunting, as the money required to rebuild, so far the cash strapped government of Baghdad has been able to supply little of it. Safety is also still an issue as ISIS activity has re-emerged in and around the city. 

The incredible resilience of the people of Mosul is hopeful however, they seem determined to bring back live to their city.

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