A Tale of Two Cities in Mosul

A sense of normalcy is returning in liberated Eastern Mosul. In Western Mosul, the Islamic State still rules.

Children carry food rations distributed by aid groups in a refugee camp in Qayyarah, Iraq, November 8, 2016
Children carry food rations distributed by aid groups in a refugee camp in Qayyarah, Iraq, November 8, 2016 (EU/ECHO/Peter Biro)

Mosul is a tale of two cities.

Eastern Mosul, situated on the left bank of the Tigris, has been fully liberated and a sense of normalcy is returning there. The first schools recently reopened, giving some 16,000 children access to education again. Residents are cleaning and clearing the streets.

Western Mosul, on the right bank of the river, remains under Islamic State control.

Military preparations are underway to retake the rest of the city. Iraqi government forces, supported by the West, have set aside six corridors for displaced people, of which they estimate there will be 250,000 to 300,000.

For now, Islamic State militants continue to use Western Mosul as a base form which to lob missiles at the eastern half of what used to be Iraq’s second largest city.

Reconstruction

When the whole of Mosul is liberated, the city could make a quick recovery.

Mosul used to be a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade, a position it could reclaim.

The hard part will be convincing the majority Sunni population not to turn away from Baghdad again.

Resentment against the Shia-led central government is what caused many Mosul residents to cheer when the army and police — perceived to be corrupt and sectarian — were routed by militants who then morphed into the puritanical Islamic State.

To prevent something like that from happening again, the authorities must quickly restore basic services, like electricity and water, and commit to increasing transparency and weeding out sectarianism.

That’s easier said than done — and the task will be made even harder by the fact that few Christians seem willing to return to Mosul. This is not only unfortunate in itself, but something that could set back the reconstruction. Before the Islamic State occupation, the small Christian community formed the backbone of the city’s professional class, providing the sort of skills Mosul will need to rebuild.