Inside Mosul, the city destroyed to save it from IS

Nada undergoes physiotherapy at the EU-funded Muharabeen primaryhealthcare centre in East Mosul, while her father is treaded nearby. Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU Nada undergoes physiotherapy at the EU-funded Muharabeen primary healthcare centre in East Mosul, while her father has his dressing changed. Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

The offensive to retake Mosul caused widespread destruction. As part of the ECHO-funded humanitarian response, all weather temporary shelter kits have been supplied to over 8,100 displaced families.Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

In the course of the nine-month battle over Mosul between Islamic State on one side and the coalition of Iraqi army, Shiite militias and US-led international forces on the other, the city experienced some of the most savage urban warfare seen since 1945.

Today, west Mosul barely exists: 80 per cent of all buildings have been razed or damaged. The old city centre is no more. The devastation in the second-largest city in Iraq is proportionally worse than that of Stalingrad or Hiroshima.

Entire blocks have been returned to dust. There are bomb craters everywhere, huge piles of refuse, thousands of burned-out husks of cars and trucks. West Mosul looks like a tomb.

Hundreds of trucks from Iraq’s northern Kurdish region keep bringing in building materials. But there is little sign in west Mosul that any sort of reconstruction is even possible. At the same time, hundreds of trucks are taking scrap metal from Mosul to the Kurdish region.

The oily Tigris River still occasionally washes up a corpse. Four out of five bridges across the river have been destroyed. Over the remaining one, traffic is sputtering along between the Iraqi army and Shiite militia checkpoints.

The Tigris’ entire west bank, where the IS fighters had dug themselves in, has been bombed clean. The tunnels the fighters used to move across the city have been filled in. Those brave enough to have remained in west Mosul fear that the underground still hides a number of “sleeper cells”.

Here amid the rubble which still harbours hundreds of corpses, any sense of security is a poor joke. Large parts of the area are riddled with mines, and there is no map. The mutilated children of Mosul

A 10-year-old girl named Nada refused to let the doctors near her. She was very much afraid of them. They were the ones who had stolen her left foot.

On April 4, she had been loitering in the courtyard of her home in west Mosul’s Zanjili??? quarter, which had been completely dismantled during the offensive. Their house was struck by a rocket. The shrapnel hit Nada in her left foot and her jaw. Her father Adel took a hit to his leg. A pair of her relatives were killed in the assault. The neighbours took them to the only functioning hospital – controlled by IS. /**/

At first, both of the two doctors on hand ignored Nada and her father. Their priorities were focused on the wounded IS fighters. According to numerous witnesses, the doctors only helped those civilians who had openly supported the caliphate. Adel was left bleeding for 10 hours. After that they simply cut off his right leg.

Nada was left to her excruciating pain for two days. The “doctors” could have saved her foot, but it simply wasn’t a priority. After a while, her wounds caught an infection and started overflowing with pus. At the end of the two days, a doctor finally came along and amputated the leg under the knee.

Nada and her father Adel undergo physiotherapy at the Muharabeen centre in east Mosul. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

“I want to go to school,” Nada told us at the Muharabeen primary care centre and Handicap International’s rehabilitation centre in the eastern part of Mosul. The physical therapist was working to exercise the stump of the little girl’s left foot – the one that was later fitted with a prosthetic device. From the way she surrendered herself completely to the therapist’s care, it was clear Nada had been released from much of her fear of doctors.

Her bright and curious eyes seemed filled with a renewed confidence. She had regained the ability to walk. She had been promised she would soon depart for Jordan, where Medecins Sans Frontieres agreed to operate on her damaged jaw. One day, she might be able to eat normally again.

Nada at the EU-funded Muharabeen centre in east Mosul. Her father Adel is treated nearby. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

In mid-March, a 12-year-old boy named Dawood was taking a flock of sheep to graze. After stepping on a mine, his right hand and left foot were blown away. Some relatives heard the detonation and ran over to where he lay mangled on the ground. He was bleeding profusely and had lost consciousness. On the day we met, Dawood could officially walk again.

“I wanted to be a soldier,” he nodded proudly. “But since I have lost an arm and a leg, the army won’t take me. Now I want to be an engineer.”

Dawood carefully raised himself up to his feet and made a few steps. His eyes flashed with defiance.

At the Muharabeen centre, doctors mostly take care of the amputees. Seventy per cent of the 310 people in their care had lost a limb or two in the raids. In total, some 18,000 people were wounded. There was a tremendous amount of amputations. In many cases, it had been done as a form of sanction – as punishment for disloyalty.

Dr Hassan Ibrahim, director of West Mosul General Hospital. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU Before the offensive, almost 2.5 million people were living in Mosul. Since then, over a million have been evacuated from the city, especially from the western Sunni districts. A joint effort by the Iraqi security forces and humanitarian organisations, the evacuation may have saved a huge number of lives, but hundreds of thousands of people still lost their homes.

5.8 million Iraqis were driven from their homes from 2014 onward. More than 3 million remain displaced, 600,000 of them from Mosul.

These people literally have no place to go back to, or they are rightly fearful of returning to the prospect of a new wave of sectarian vengeance. During my travels across the refugee camps in northern Iraq I met numerous people who were actively prevented from returning by the security forces and the Shiite militias. Resurrecting a hospital

IS had been deliberately dismantling the medical infrastructure in the city.

“What you see is not rebuilding. It’s a reanimation. We’ve seen almost total destruction of the premises. IS took out all our equipment. The demand for our services is staggering,” we were told by Dr Hassan Ibrahim, director of the West Mosul General Hospital – the only functioning hospital in the ransacked urban desert.

As soon as the Iraqi forces took control of the district on May 15, the remaining hospital staff took to “resurrecting” the facilities.

The hospital’s managing director still serves as an active surgeon. In the past, he had been arrested four times by IS. He had been put on trial twice. The first time because his trousers were too long, the second because they were deemed too short after he had dutifully shortened them.

The main hospital in west Mosul is doing what it can to help some life go on amid the rubble. The hospital’s underground facilities may be in need of complete renovation. But that hasn’t stopped the staff from using it as an improvised maternity ward.

New life brings hope: Susanne, a young Iraqi mother with her newborn baby at West Mosul General Hospital. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

During our visit the modest premises were a site of lively activity. That morning, Suria Shaab Ahmad, 42, had given birth to the little girl she was now clutching to her breast. It was her fifth child.

“Five is enough,” Suria said, laughing, just two hours after the delivery. She had been escorted to the hospital by her 62-year-old mother. Like hundreds of other men from Mosul’s Sunni community, Suria’s husband had simply disappeared.

“Today we are happy. Life is starting over again. I’m trying to find a name for my little girl. A suggestion?” Suria asked.

Al-Nur? The Light?

“That’s going to be tough – we already have four girls named al-Nur in the family,” Suria smiled.

In spite of everything – let there be light.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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