Every child has a dream of what they want to do when they grow up. I wanted to be a solicitor all the way through primary school, all the way through secondary school and all the way up until I tried A-Level Law at Sixth Form and found out I had a terrible legal brain. Being able to have a dream and having the means to pursue it was something I took for granted, I had a great state provided education which I received in a Western liberal democracy.
Children in Mosul, Iraq have their dreams too. Unfortunately many had to put them on hold in the summer of 2014 when their city fell under the control of ISIS. Two years ago, the Battle of Mosul began, leading to the eventual defeat of ISIS in Mosul nine months later.
We at Human Appeal, who were the first NGO on the ground in West Mosul after the defeat of ISIS, asked young girls “What are your dreams and aspirations?” These girls had lost two years of formal education whilst ISIS occupied their city. Did the liberation from ISIS mean liberation for their generation to go back to school and help rebuild Iraqi society?
Unfortunately not. Ever since the Battle of Mosul started on the 16th October 2016, the progress to rebuild the city has been slow and the needs remain high.
As families returned to the city, following the end of the fighting, they have been facing nearly unlivable conditions due to the inability to find work in order to cover their basic needs. Public buildings, infrastructure and homes are still in rubble, in desperate need of rapid rehabilitation and reconstruction. Cooperation between local, national and international organisations to rebuild Mosul has been challenging since the beginning. This has ranged from removing dead bodies under the rubble to decontamination of the 8 million tons of conflict debris and simultaneously rebuilding buildings and restoring water, electricity and bridges.
In Human Appeal’s report, produced with UNHCR, ‘Challenges Upon Return in West Mosul’ we found that many people who have returned have a low satisfaction with the provision of services related to health, education and water. Many are struggling to go to hospital, go to school and even access clean water.
Our report also shows an alarming finding of 42% of households having at least one child under 15 years old contributing to household income – meaning child labour is high. Work opportunities are still lacking, especially among female headed households.
Mosul was once a multi-cultural city, made up of people from different faiths and different ethnic backgrounds. Prior to 2014, it was thought that between 35-40% of the city were non-Sunni Arabs. Then, after Mosul fell under the extreme authoritarian theocracy of ISIS, many with different beliefs were either violently expelled or violently killed. Many of the scars of the city now fall along ethnic lines and will take time and effort to heal.
Human Appeal are working with UN agencies, the Iraqi government with the support of the international community, NGOs and civil society organisations to address these needs. Following the end of the Battle we rebuilt 30 schools in time for the start of term, we provided mobile health clinics across 5 camps and are helping provide people with food, essential items and shelter. Positive change is happening, but a secure and prosperous Mosul will not occur overnight. A lot needs to be done.
The young girls who we asked the question about their dreams told us that they want to go back to school and to become doctors, engineers and teachers in a peaceful Iraq. For this to happen, NGOs, governments and civil society needs to work together and ensure Mosul breaks the cycle of war and violence.
Whilst the Battle of Mosul, which started just over two years ago, may have finished, the fight for Mosul’s future is only just beginning.