Anbar was once known as a haven for extremist groups in Iraq. Now, following the defeat of ISIS, people in towns and cities across the province are observing Ramadan free from the group's rule.
Almost two years since the defeat of ISIS in the country, the residents of Anbar Province are reviving their province’s Ramadan traditions. According to locals, during ISIS rule, the residents were not allowed to practice traditions that they associate with the holy month of Ramadan. Amongst these customs, is the decoration of homes and streets with colourful lamps, and the playing of “muhaybis,” a traditional game played in cafes and parks till late hours of the night. Citizens also celebrated the return of the “musaharati,” the drummer who would wake people up so that they can eat before sunrise and the commence of fasting. Citizens said that during ISIS’ rule, all of these were not allowed.
As a result, when the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) defeated ISIS and began tightening security in the province, citizens were once again free to revive their Ramadan traditions.
“Previously, ISIS controlled Anbar and imposed its rules and traditions, and destroyed the infrastructure after controlling the province,” said a young man from Anbar. “Today, the streets are safe and beautiful thanks to the efforts of the security forces and their sacrifices. As young people, we have started to enjoy the Ramadan atmosphere.”
Due to the active security measures that the ISF have put in place in Anbar, the province is witnessing “unprecedented stability” according to the locals. This has encouraged many IDPs from around the country to return to their homes in Anbar, to restart their lives.
“As you can see today, the people of Anbar live a different Ramadan atmosphere after all those who were [displaced] outside, returned,” said another man from the province. “All the families who were scattered in other provinces returned and reunited in Anbar Province.”
While some security reports state that ISIS sleeper cells continue to exist in the province’s deserts, major cities have been protected from any potential infiltrations. Furthermore, according to Iraqi officials, the residents of Anbar have been much more proactive in reporting any ISIS activity and members affiliated with the militant group. As a result, this has caused the province to witness security, unlike before.
With security in place and IDPs returning, citizens of Anbar can finally experience Ramadan like they used to before ISIS began terrorising their lives.
“This province has suffered the scourge of wars by ISIS, but eventually it was freed from terrorism,” said a resident. “Today, as citizens of Anbar province, we are enjoying the holy month of Ramadan like the rest of Iraq’s provinces.”