Toy shops considered ‘haram’ by ISIS have reopened in liberated areas of Mosul. Under the group’s restrictive rule, only a few toys were allowed and only under extreme conditions.
But with the expulsion of ISIS militants from over 80% of Mosul and the return of some families to their homes, the demand for toys is now increasing. Colourful displays of children’s bikes, action toys and baby walkers line numerous streets in Mosul with children free to choose toys they want without fear of punishment. “At the end of the day,” says one toy-shop owner, “it’s just a toy”.
However, families are continually being warned of the dangers of touching seemingly abandoned toys in empty homes. ISIS militants have booby-trapped stuffed animals, action figures and even packs of cards in order to specifically target children who are likely to move or pick up the toy. This tactic, however, is not new and has been a common feature of the group’s withdrawal tactics, which they have used ever since their first defeat in the city towards the end of last year.
Despite this danger, the reopening of toy shops is a further sign of life returning to normal and growing freedom in liberated areas of Mosul.
Many Iraqis have been re-placing satellite dishes on the roof of their homes after television was banned by ISIS in order to disconnect residents from the outside world. Even musicians have rediscovered the freedom to play their instruments, such as the violinist Ameen Mukkad, a Mosul resident whose instruments were taken by ISIS militants after finding out that he was playing his violin in secret.
With the group on the cusp of complete expulsion from Mosul, many residents are hopeful that they will be able to return to normal life without the harsh restrictions imposed by ISIS.