Following the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, communities are attempting to restitch the fabric of their societies after they were mercilessly attacked by ISIS militants. These communities are working with local NGOs to instigate projects that will aid the achievement of this goal.
Among the main working areas for these NGOs are the Nineveh Plains, an area located in Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province and one filled with a diverse set of ethno-religious communities. These include Kurdish and Arab towns and villages, as well as those with Turkmen, Assyrian and Shabak populations.
Many of these communities were violently attacked by ISIS who believed them to be anathema to their own puritanical ideology. Towns like Bakhdida (also known as Qaraqosh or Hamdaniyah) and Bartella were occupied by ISIS, with local populations forced to flee and their religious edifices destroyed.
“As for the composition of Nineveh province, it is a microcosm of what exists in Iraq,” said one man, working with NGOs. “Coexistence has been in Iraq for a long time and people have coexisted with each other, but these circumstances have created some gaps.”
NGOs are subsequently attempting to create programs and initiatives that spread messages of tolerance, love, faith and mutual respect for different groups. Children are also a focus of the NGOs, as they have been a specific target of extremists, who have exploited their youth and innocence for harmful goals.
While many workers recognise that such programs will take years to achieve their desired aims and reverse the destructive impact caused by ISIS, the establishment of such programs is a positive step for removing the traces of ISIS’ rule. And it is moreover further evidence of a burgeoning civil society in Nineveh, once ISIS’ stronghold in the country.