Just days after Iraqi forces completed their recapture of Mosul from the Islamic State, the nation’s ambassador to the Holy See has said that they are eager to rebuild the city and have people return home, but it will require help to do so.
“We reiterate our need for greater cooperation and greater help for the reconstruction and stability of the freed areas, including Mosul, because there is no complete victory until the displaced are returned to their homes and guaranteed essential services,” Omer Ahmed Karim Berzinji said July 13.
“The most important challenge now is the effort for the reconstruction and the stability of the city through the construction of infrastructures in order for the displaced to return. We have need of international support to bring back stability and to prevent the return of the terrorists.”
Berzinji spoke to journalists at a press conference in Rome July 13.
The presser was held in response to the July 9 declaration that Mosul had been recaptured. The government operation to free Mosul, one of the Islamic State’s remaining key strongholds, had been underway for nine months. The group still controls areas around the Iraqi cities of Tal Afar, Hawija, and Al-Qa’im, as well as portions of Syria.
During this time, thousands were killed and nearly 1 million residents fled the city, the major part of it destroyed.
Fr. Ghazwan Baho, a parish priest in Alqosh – the last major Christian city on the Plain of Nineveh not taken by the Islamic State – told CNA they are thankful Mosul has been freed, but the future of the city is still uncertain.
“We thank God that the evil was overcome, but Mosul is a city almost 80 percent destroyed. The future is dark. There isn’t much hope of reconstruction.”
“It’s not enough to win the war, but we need to rebuild,” he said. “We are afraid of the future, of revenge; our area is a land of conflict. Let’s hope for the best.”
The Islamic State had controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, since June 2014. It has imposed a rigid version of sharia in territory it controls, but its rule also features arbitrary violence, including killing and enslavement.
A 2016 U.N. report said that 800 to 900 children in Mosul have been abducted and put through Islamic State religious and military training. There have been accounts of child soldiers who were killed for fleeing fighting on the front lines of Iraq’s Anbar province.
The U.N. also estimates that as of Jan. 2016 the group held about 3,500 slaves, mainly women and children of the Yazidi religion. Some of the women are killed for trying to escape or for refusing sexual relations with Islamic State fighters.
The Iraq ambassador couldn’t give specifics on the government’s plan for how to free the women, but told CNA that it will certainly be one of their top objectives. Regarding the Islamic State, he said he considers the victory in Mosul the “beginning of their end.”
“I am very enthusiastic to take all of that (remaining) occupied territory,” he continued.
Another result of the battle, he told journalists, has been the unification of the various “factions” of the Iraqi army who “joined together for the liberation of Mosul.”
The ambassador emphasized that Iraqis worldwide are celebrating the victory, saying that “the first thing after the liberation of Mosul, the most important thing, was that all Iraqis were united.”
Berzinji also noted the help from outside forces, saying “friends and allies have played a distinct role in supporting the efforts of the Iraqi government in this battle through the intervention of the international coalition or outside it.”
“That is why victory in Mosul is a victory for all those who have helped and have collaborated with us in the fight against this criminal organization.”