Iraq’s cities are coming back to life as millions of residents display remarkable resilience to rebuild their homes and their lives
Slowly but surely, Iraq’s cities are coming back to life. After a conflict that saw ISIS destroy large parts of Iraq’s infrastructure and archaeological heritage, residents are coming together in a display of remarkable resilience by progressing with the mammoth task of rebuilding their country.
It is estimated that the total cost of reconstruction will be in the region of $88 billion, as Iraqi authorities and the international community work closely in a bid to attract investment and turn plans into action. In February, $30 billion in loans and other forms of assistance were offered by the international community to rebuild key infrastructure, but much more is needed. Iraq is home to some of the world’s oldest architecture, and so alongside money the work requires specialist skills.
Training for some of these skills is being provided by the British Museum at the world’s oldest-known bridge, an ancient, 4,000-year-old Sumerian structure. Local archaeologists will therefore soon be able to help restore the region after the trail of destruction left by ISIS. The training begins this April for eight women from the Mosul region, who have until now been living as refugees.
Similarly, the UAE is already working on a plan to reconstruct the 12th-century al-Nuri mosque, which was reduced to rubble by ISIS. The extremist group destroyed countless Iraqi sites of religious and historical interest, but the demolition of this much-loved mosque, with its symbolic al-Hadba minaret, was seen by the people of Iraq and around the world as a crime against the country and against Islam. It is perhaps this act that galvanized residents, Iraqi authorities and global agencies to come together to rebuild as a matter of urgency. For many, the rebuilding of the Nuri mosque and the Hadbaa minaret will symbolise Iraq’s re-emergence from the grip of ISIS.
Many other countries and international organisations are contributing money to help rebuild Iraq’s towns and cities since ISIS was ousted from power. A United Nations development program has begun 350 regeneration projects across the country, and UNESCO is working with local authorities to restore heritage sites that have been damaged, including the impressive 1,200-year-old minaret of the Great Mosque in Samarra.
On the ground, many residents are eager to bring a sense of normality back to their neighbourhoods and are helping each other rebuild their homes and workplaces. It is difficult to imagine the impact the destruction of homes and important local buildings has on residents, but their defiance in the face of adversity is clear.
There is no doubt that reconstruction presents a huge challenge – and an expensive one. But the Iraqi people are determined to erase all traces of ISIS and look to a brighter future where their infrastructure and heritage are restored.