On the 24th January 2014, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the entirety of eastern Mosul had been liberated from ISIS militants, three months into the battle for the city.
Since that time, markets have returned to life and people are once again working freely to earn an income. Young people have also taken up artistic and academic professions that were previously forbidden under the militant group.
When the Iraqi forces began their campaign to liberate the city, they were able to advance rapidly in the early stages. However, as they entered the more densely populated areas of the city, ISIS began using desperate tactics to slow down their advance. These included the heavy use of suicide car-bombs, human shields and scorched earth policies. Despite this, the Iraqi forces ploughed through, eventually retaking the whole eastern side within a couple of months.
For three years, the group imposed a number of arbitrary restrictions upon the people of Mosul. They would brutally punish civilians f0r the smallest offences with death and torture. Now, they are free to open their businesses and carry on with their daily life without fear of punishment.
Residents are now allowed to stay out late, as the streets of Mosul glisten with lights from shops and restaurants. “People have hope and are starting a new life,” remarked one Mosul resident. “They act like there was no war that had recently ended. If you walk through the markets, you wouldn’t think that there had been a war”.
Across the city, young activists have been organising events and initiatives to revive interest in Mosul’s rich cultural history. On the 6th September, 25,000 residents from the city gathered to celebrate arts and culture at the University of Mosul. They took part in a large-scale books festival in order to celebrate the city’s vast literary history.
This has been replicated across the city with a number of civil society groups and volunteers taking it upon themselves to remove all traces of ISIS’ effect on Mosul and replace them with messages of unity and cohesion.