A retired colonel takes me to the roof of his tall house in Al Qayyarah. From here you have a clear view over the city and the river, reasons for which the house was used as ISIS headquarters during the siege.
Mr. Abed used to serve as a colonel under Saddam Hussein until 2003 and says that the best time in Iraq was during the Iran-Iraq war because the country was safe back then. Nowadays he likes to stay at home with his family and paint, he shows me a selection of paintings where ISIS has eliminated faces and written: La Ilaha illallah (There is no deity but Allah).
A five minute walk from Mr. Abed’s house, Khali runs a slaughterhouse: ’’Not so long ago, I couldn’t imagine that ISIS would ever leave…life feels good again now’’. During the siege, Khali had to give a percentage of each slaughtered animal to ISIS who forbade the butchers to slaughter anything but male sheep.
In Al Qayyarah life is slowly going back to normal again after ISIS was defeated a few months ago.Boys are diving and swimming in the Tigris river’s green water and people have gone back to playing volleyball by the stadium, partly destroyed by ISIS. The market is bustling and people feel relieved as they slowly return to daily habits of their former lives.
In recently liberated Eastern Mosul, a small team of soldiers are slowly clearing areas from mines that ISIS left behind. In the destroyed University area, a former IED factory is being emptied, a soldier indicate 8 missiles, made in Russia and transported from Syria, used for parts only to build IED devices.
Girls and boys are back in school, happy to be here but painfully aware of the education they missed out on during the years there was no school. 14-year old Raxd says that life in any country in the world is better than here: ’’We don’t have a future in Iraq’’.
A hundred meters down the road, 16-year old Ilhem sits in a room on the upper floor of the house, in her mother’s empty beauty parlor which recently reopened.Back in the days, a haircut was 5000 dinar. Today the price is down to 2000 dinar but the clients who can afford it are few.
Street life is returning in the East, accompanied by the sound from the ongoing battle in the West and from suicide vehicles being destroyed by the Iraqi forces in a distance.
Traveling east on Mosul road, a group of Golden division soldiers at base in Bartella, have just returned from the frontline before sunset.One soldier says: This is my work and I’m very happy to do it. Even my mother would go to war for her country.’’