Mosul Residents Recount ISIS Horrors Seven Years After Liberation

(AWP) - Iraqis in Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Governorate, bitterly remember the horrors of their city falling to forces of the Islamic State group (ISIS) in 2014, a day they say can never be erased from their memory.

Seven years after the Iraqi army liberated the country’s second-largest city, its residents are still struggling to return to normal lives, as remnants of the group’s rule are still notable in many parts of Mosul.

ISIS entered the city on June 10, 2014, and held full control over it for three years.

Mansur Yaqoub, a Mosul resident and government employee, said, “The first thing to fall was Mosul, and then the city of Qaraqosh. It was fear and terror when the news came. We thought that ISIS’ force was massive, but it was actually very small.”

He recalls sorrowfully, “There were three [Iraqi] military divisions in the city of Mosul … Why did they withdraw? We fled with fear and terror when [ISIS] struck Qaraqosh. We knew that the city had fallen.”

Upon capturing Mosul in 2014, ISIS’ former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of what he described as ‘the Islamic caliphate,’ while addressing his followers from the pulpit of al-Nuri Mosque, one of Iraq’s most renowned mosques.

The mosque was destroyed when ISIS forces took refuge in it during clashes with the Iraqi army in 2017. Despite its reconstruction, traces of what ISIS did are still evident in the mosque, as in various parts of Mosul.

Safaa Jameel is a retired employee living in Mosul, who still remembers the fear that gripped residents on the day ISIS forces entered the city.

He recounts, “A state of terrible fear overwhelmed us. People were anxiously waiting without knowing what was going to happen. Certainly, the Christians fled after being subjected to demands they couldn’t meet … they were falsely promised many things. But in the end, they [ISIS] expelled Christians, stripped them of their identity cards, stole their money and wrote the letter N for ‘Nasara’ [or ‘Nazerene’] on their doors and houses. This word has nothing to do with us because we are Christians, but that was their mindset.”

Despite the relative security stability Mosul is experiencing today, residents are still struggling with long-term repercussions in the form of deteriorating health and economic conditions amidst high rates of unemployment in the city.

Piles of rubble from buildings destroyed during ISIS’ control are still visible across various parts of the city.