Spirits are high, and patriotism is sweeping through Iraq as the Iraqi forces liberate the last remaining territory held by Daesh.
Daesh rampaged across nearly one third of Iraq and plunged the country into a severe political, security and social crises. Up to five million Iraqis were displaced, and horrific genocidal campaigns were waged against minority groups, most notably the Yazidis in northern Iraq.
Daesh exploited and fuelled divisions in some of Iraq’s once deeply divided society, to take control of large swathes of land and suppress millions under their tyrannical rule. By the end of June 2014, Daesh had seized the western and northern parts of Iraq, took control of key Iraqi cities such as Fallujah, Tikrit, Hit, al-Qa’im and their prized gain, the northern city of Mosul.
After gaining control of these areas, the group carried out the most horrific atrocities. On the 12th June 2014, Daesh massacred up to 1700 young cadets in Camp Speicher. Following this, on 3rd August 2014, the extremist militants captured Sinjar and rounded up thousands of Yazidi men, before slaughtering them en masse and enslaving their women and children.
The years under Daesh rule in Iraq will go down as one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history. Under Daesh rule, the group enforced extreme laws on Iraiq’s, outlawing people from the simple acts such as smoking, watching television or using a mobile. The group also banned weddings along with most forms of celebrations and forced people to adhere to strict religious guidelines. Children were banned from playing football in the streets, and even attending school.
One man from Mosul described the years under Daesh as “the most difficult period on earth… They committed atrocities, we lived two years and seven months and they were hell.”
However, after these setbacks, Iraqi forces have regrouped and over the last year and a half have successfully defeated this murderous group. The Iraqi forces first began by re-taking Tikrit and Ramadi at the end of 2015, before proceeding to liberate Fallujah, Hit and Qayarrah. After recapturing these areas, the Iraqi Government launched the largest scale offensive in the country’s recent history to liberate and reclaim control of the city of Mosul. After a grueling 9-month offensive, Daesh’s capital in Iraq collapsed, along with any hopes that the group could establish a state.
The liberation of Mosul effectively signalled the beginning of the end of the group’s presence in Iraq. Daesh defences experienced monumental collapses in the rest of its strongholds including Tal Afar, Hawija, al-Qa’im and al-Rawa.
As areas were liberated in rapid succession, millions of Iraqis are ecstatic as their freedoms and hopes of future prosperity has returned. Ordinary life has quickly returned to the liberated areas as markets, schools and universities re-open. Communities have come together to repair the damage and erase the memory of the terrorists that took away their homes and inflicted so much suffering.
Since the liberation of towns and cities, civil society is reviving. Amidst the rubble, energetic, young Iraqis have come together in profound displays of unity and dedication to undo the effects of Daesh terror. Volunteers have taken it upon themselves to clear up their towns and cities and restore key cultural heritage sites that were vandalised by the group.
Although Daesh has lost all its territory and its ideology categorically rejected by the Iraqi people, they will cowardly attempt to carry out attacks in the hope of inciting division and hatred between communities. There are fears that the group will go underground and kick-start a new insurgency, but there are positive signs across the country that show that they will not be given the space to thrive and accrue the level of influence it gained three years ago.
Iraqis stand united against extremism and are determined to rehabilitate and rejuvenate their towns and cities by fostering co-existence and pluralism.
Image: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP