Retaking Mosul doesn’t mean an end to civilian suffering, warns aid agency

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Displaced civilians from Mosul. File photo

ARA News

After Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the liberation of Mosul city, the aid agency International Rescue Committee (IRC) cautioned that millions of people were still suffering.

“The retaking of Mosul does not mean an automatic end of suffering for the 1.5 million people that have spent more than two years living under harsh ISIS rule,” explained Wendy Taeuber, the IRC’s Iraq Director.

The IRC is providing specialized services, including counseling to men, women and children. The charity wants to help civilians overcome the trauma that they have experienced.

“Many difficult months lie ahead for the more than 1 million people that were forced to flee their homes, as well as those that remained in Mosul, and survived ISIS’ brutality and the fight to retake the city,” she said. “Despite the [Prime Minister’s] declaration, ISIS controls some areas in the Old City of Mosul and ongoing fighting will continue to threaten the lives of civilians.”

ISIS still controls several areas in Iraq outside of Mosul, including Hawija, Tel Afar, and western Anbar. The would-be Caliphate is also believed to retain influence along the Jordanian-Iraqi border.

“Beyond Mosul at least 150,000 people, including around 75,000 children, are still living under ISIS rule,” Taeuber stated. “Even once all Iraqi territory has been cleared from ISIS fighters and unexploded mines, ISIS will continue to terrorize people across Iraq.”

“The horrors ISIS inflicted on the residents of Mosul left huge wounds not only in the social fabric of the city but also in the minds of people. Almost all have lost loved ones, and have likely seen or even experienced brutal punishment. We have heard from families that even children were forced to watch public executions and the bodies of those killed were left to hang in the streets for days,” she added.

One mother described the impact of having her children attend an IRC ‘safe space’ where children take part in activities and games to help them to process their worries and to build their resilience. “In Mosul I barely let my children leave the house to keep them away from ISIS. Now my son makes people laugh again,” she said.

“Some may not feel safe returning to Mosul and should not be encouraged to return home before they are ready,” the IRC chief cautioned. “We have seen in other formerly ISIS-controlled areas including Fallujah and Ramadi that it takes time for people to feel safe, communities to recover and trust to be restored.”

“For those that do choose to return it is important areas are made safe, including clearing unexploded mines and booby traps which will continue to pose a threat to civilian life long after ISIS is gone. Vital services such as water and power as well as schooling must also be restored.”

“It is important that funding for the humanitarian and protection needs of Iraqis remain a priority even after the military offensives against ISIS conclude,” Taeuber continued. “Investment in early recovery and resilience are critical for fostering peaceful co-existence between communities and equal access to resources and safety for all Iraqis.”

Concluding, Director Taeuber said that “the best way for residents of Mosul to get back on their feet is to help them support themselves.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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