Despite being liberated almost one-year ago, the Old City of Mosul is still suffering from the remnants of the military operations. Millions of tonnes of rubble are yet to be removed from western Mosul alone. Beneath the rubble, an estimated 2000 bodies are remaining to be cleared. Many of the bodies buried underneath have either decomposed or been crushed due to the constant moving of tractors and bulldozers.
In an effort to relieve the burden on citizens of Mosul’s Old City, the Abbas Combat Division has started an initiative to clear the city of some of its rubble. The Abbas Combat Division is a faction within the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), whose loyalty lies with the Shrine of Imam Abbas, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Despite the groups loyalty to Ayatollah al-Sistani, a Shi’a cleric, some observers state that the Abbas Combat Division is one of the factions in the PMU with the most cross-sectarian makeup
According to one of the commanders, the group has undertaken this initiative as part of the ‘Loyalty Campaign’ launched by the Imam Abbas Shrine under the guidance of Ayatollah al-Sistani. This campaign aims to help remove rubble, open roads and rebuild people’s homes in liberated towns. “Our equipment arrived at Mosul on 8th April, and the work began on the 10th of April,” said the commander. “Our main priority was opening roadways and restoring bridges”.
The residents of Mosul’s Old City have shown their gratitude to the group for their work as they are the only group to undertake such an initiative.
Earlier this year, a similar campaign called the ‘$2 campaign’ was launched by Mosul’s youth to clean up the city and open roads for citizens to move back to their houses. The citizens have complained that the government has not paid any attention to the city and it has caused them a lot of problems.
“We demand more to be done by the officials. Out city is wrecked…we demand to have the rest of the rubble removed. The smell of the rotting bodies is destroying us,” complained one of the citizens.
The area also faces problems with unexploded bombs left behind by ISIS which has caused many deaths since the liberation of the city in July 2017. U.N. Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has estimated that the removal of the explosives will take at least 10 years due to the large amount of ISIS explosives and unexploded coalition bombs beneath the rubble. In 2017, UNMAS removed 45k explosives, of these 25k were from East Mosul alone. The Iraqi Government has estimated that it will cost over $30 billion and 10 years to reconstruct Mosul.
Nonetheless, initiatives such as Abbas Combat Division’s ‘Loyalty Campaign’, the ‘$2 Campaign’ and other independent reconstruction projects have raised people’s hopes in their city being rebuilt after liberation from ISIS. “They [Abbas Combat Division] fought for our liberation and now they are working to restore the town, we truly thank them,” said a resident of Mosul.