Despite the defeat of ISIS across Iraq, remnants of the group’s legacy remain in a number of liberated towns and cities.
In Fallujah, the first city in Iraq to fall to ISIS in 2014, residents have returned to find their homes destroyed and ruined, with some a nightmarish reminder of where ISIS would exact and carry out punishments.
In Abu Faris’s house, ironclad doors, chains and torture devices are still visible, symbols of the group’s brutal reign in Anbar Province and one of many houses used for punishing local residents who contravened the group’s strict laws in Fallujah.
Abu Faris left his home in January 2014 when ISIS militants took over the city. He returned last year and still struggles to come to terms with the damage inflicted upon his house, and moreover, for what purposes his house was used for.
“Yes, it was a prison. A prison and a jail at the same time,” said Abu Faris. When asked what ISIS militants used the house for, Abu Faris simply replies “Torture, torture inside and outside. Torture and executions”.
In another house, that of Abu Khalid, the effects of ISIS’ rule are also prevalent for all to see. Militants knocked down the walls of the downstairs rooms to make, in Abu Khalid’s words, “an open plan prison”.
Despite these painful memories of ISIS’ rule, many citizens across Anbar are putting this dark past behind them. Earlier this year, residents from Fallujah celebrated the festive period for the first time, with local residents dressing up as santas and distributing gifts to children across the city.
Citizens also celebrated the Iraqi army day, highlighting the rapprochement between the security forces and people from Fallujah in light of the tumultuous history shared between the two in recent years. While in neighbouring Ramadi, the city held its first peace festival, where local residents gathered to celebrate the city and the wider province’s love for art, music and dancing, all of which were banned under ISIS rule.