New hope for an old city

Under ISIL’s brutal regime, Mosul was hit hard. Now, the task to rebuild is enormous — but not impossible.

UNDP Arab States
Apr 24, 2018 · 3 min read
Members of a UNDP-supported cash-for-work scheme clear the streets of Mosul’s Old City, which suffered extensive damage during ISIS occupation and the battle to liberate the city

When ISIL ruled, Iraq endured horrific violence. Thousands of people died. Women and girls were enslaved. Millions were forced to live under one of the most brutal regimes imaginable. More than 5.8 million Iraqis fled their homes, creating one of the world’s largest and most volatile humanitarian crisis.

Inside the devastated Old City of Mosul, which suffered extensive damage during ISIL occupation

Mosul was hit hard. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave the city, and nearly a quarter of the almost 20,000 damaged structures were fully destroyed.

This ancient, culturally rich city became a shadow of its former self — dilapidated buildings lined the empty streets, debris piled up, and explosives hid under rubble.

The Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul’s Old City was destroyed by Islamic State militants. Local cash-for-work crews are helping to clear the surrounding area.

In the old city alone, close to 8,000 structures were damaged, including the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, built in the late 12th century. The mosque held symbolic importance to ISIL — in 2014 it was used by the militants to self-declare their caliphate.

Destroyed buildings in Mosul’s historic centre. The once beautiful Old City has suffered extensive damage during the war to oust Islamic State from the area.

The destruction of Mosul’s public infrastructure system — including its electricity, water, sanitation and sewage system — is so extensive that it has been likened to damage sustained after the Second World War.

UNDP staff walk past destroyed buildings in Mosul’s historic centre

But progress is being made. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), UNDP is working alongside the Iraqi government to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the emergence of violent extremism.

Members of a UNDP-supported cash-for-work scheme clear the streets of Mosul’s Old City.

The role of the local community in bringing Mosul back to life is crucial — thousands have been employed to remove rubble and debris from the streets, literally paving the way to rebuild their beloved, historic city.

Through UNDP’s FFS, hundreds of men and women from Mosul are working on public schemes, earning an income while they help clean up their city.

Seventy-year-old Abdul Salam Yahia Qasem and his family left their Mosul home when ISIL took control. Once the city was liberated, it was impossible to return home — the street leading to their house was engulfed in rubble from neighboring houses, destroyed by airstrikes.

Abdul Salam Yahia Qasem stands at the front entrance of his home inside the Old City of Mosul

Today, the story is different. Many of Mosul’s streets in the Old City have been cleared. In the surrounding areas, electricity grids are starting to work, water systems are being repaired, schools are opening, health centres are functioning and people are getting back to work.

And only a few weeks ago, Abdul Salam was able to return home.

“I’m so happy to come home,” he says smiling. “I hope to bring the rest of my family back soon, too.”


Photos: UNDP Iraq/Claire Thomas

About FFS

At the request of the Government of Iraq, UNDP established the Funding Facility for Stabilization in June 2015 to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis, lay the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery, and safeguard against the resurgence of violence and extremism.

FFS currently has more than 1,900 projects in the 31 liberated towns and districts that UNDP has been asked to work, helping local authorities to quickly rehabilitate essential infrastructure and services.

UNDP Arab States

Written by

UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab States. Working together for a brighter future across the Arab World. Speak Arabic? Follow @UNDPArabic too!

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