By Tallha Abdulrazaq
12 July 2018
One year ago, Iraqi prime minister Haider
al-Abadi declared that the Isis extremist group had been defeated in Mosul, one
of Iraq’s most historically important and populated cities.
Dressed in military fatigues and surrounded
by his top brass, the Iraqi leader grandiosely declared on state television
that the nine-month battle that had seen some of the deadliest and most
destructive urban warfare since the Second World War had finally come to an
“From here, from the heart of free and
liberated Mosul, by the sacrifices of the Iraqis from all the governorates, we
announce the awaited victory to all of Iraq, and the Iraqis,” Abadi said, as
plumes of acrid black smoke and the smell of death arose from the smouldering
ruins of Mosul into the skies above him.
In scenes reminiscent of footage of
Stalingrad after the Nazis were defeated in 1943, Mosul, Iraq’s second city,
was left a shattered and devastated population centre. The city was almost
completely destroyed in the fighting between Isis and federal government
forces, supported by Iran-backed Shia Islamist militants and the full might of
the US-led coalition’s air forces.
The Iraqi military could call in Western
airstrikes on demand, with some airstrikes called in against small Isis sniper
teams perched atop apartment complexes. In one such strike, Kurdish correspondents
on the ground reported that 237 civilians had been killed.
While there are no official numbers
released on the civilian death toll, some estimates place the number at a
horrifying 40,000 dead and buried under the ruined husk of the once great city.
Whatever the number is, there is no detracting from the great and avoidable
human cost of the operation to recapture Mosul.
To this day, bodies are being retrieved
from under the rubble by civilian volunteers, as they are left abandoned by the
authorities in Baghdad who have been too busy with election campaigns and
political horse trading to be bothered about their citizens. The smell of death
still lingers on the streets, as corpses decomposing and bloated in the
scorching Iraqi heat continue to poison the air.
Casting our minds back to the tragedy of
the 9/11 terror attacks, would the American people have stayed silent if the
government neglected clearing the ruins of the World Trade Centre? Would they
have accepted for the bodies of the 3,000 innocents senselessly killed by
al-Qaeda to be left buried under the rubble for more than a year before they
could say goodbye to their loved ones at proper funerals? Of course not. Yet
that is exactly what the people of Mosul are being forced to endure, as their government
The tragedy of Mosul is reflective of the
overall failure of the Iraqi political process since 2003. Savage and
reprehensible though it is, Isis did not appear in a vacuum. Years of virulent
sectarianism from pro-Iran political leaders, political violence and government
human rights abuses fed the monster of radicalisation until it metamorphosed
into the most brutal terrorist organisation the region has ever produced.
The truly sad thing is that, after all the
destruction in Iraq in the war against Isis, the extremists are still a threat,
conducting bombings, abductions and murders more than seven months after they
were declared completely defeated in Iraq.
Mosul is still nowhere near being rebuilt,
with a health crisis gripping the city. Medical charity MSF said on Monday that
70 per cent of the health system in Mosul is still dysfunctional one year after
it was prised from Isis’s grasp, with nine out of 13 hospitals suffering heavy
damage during the fighting.
The restoration of basic infrastructure and
services will cost nigh on $1bn, let alone to fully rehouse the 380,000 still
displaced and then reconstruct and redevelop Mosul which will cost billions
The fundamental issues that led to the rise
of Isis have not been treated and therefore the symptoms of that disease
remain. Mosul, a city belonging predominantly to the Sunni Arab demographic who
suffered the most during the fighting against Isis, must not be allowed to be
neglected any further.
Chronic neglect will lead to the people
feeling resentment, festering hatred and feelings of wanting revenge against
everyone who had a role to play in their misery. Such powerful negative
emotions are the doorways through which radical ideologies find an entry into
The Iraqi government and the international
community must step up and take responsibility for the eradication of
radicalisation. This means development, education, the provision of healthcare
and basic services, and, most importantly, to instil hope in the population for
a better tomorrow away from the horrors of today. Without this, the monsters of
the recent past will rear their heads once more, and next time might be even
worse not only for Iraqis, but for the rest of the world too.