A new life sprouts up around Mosul after scars of Daesh rule

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Iraqi families dine at a restaurant on the eastern bank of the Iraqi city of Mosul, six months after chasing out the militants whoo took control of the city in 2014. On the western side, devastation remains six months exactly after the second city of Iraq was retaken by the governmental forces from Daesh (the so-called IS) group, but in the eastern side of the city, life is back, including fashion and amusement places. — AFP

By Sarah Benhaida

EVEN before Daesh (the so-called IS) group took over her home city of Mosul, Iraqi 31-year-old Nesrine never imagined she would have a job working late into the evening at a fashion boutique.

But now, in districts of Iraq's second city not left totally devastated by the ferocious fighting to oust the militants, life is buzzing again — with more vibrancy than ever.

"We have experienced depression, hunger, ruin and oppression. It is a miracle that we are still alive," Nesrine told AFP.

"We went through a long nightmare and now we have woken up transformed."

Nesrine is employed at a gleaming new clothing shop that has opened up on the east bank of the river Tigris — liberated from Daesh months before the group's final defeat in western districts six months ago — selling skinny jeans and colorful tops from Turkey.

As pop music blares from loud speakers, she works alongside male colleagues advising customers lured in during a late-evening stroll by images of fashion models.

In the shop window, a mannequin wearing an above-the-knee skirt is on display.

'Unimaginable'

Mosul has long had a reputation as a bedrock of conservatism and became a hub for Sunni militants after the US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

But when Daesh seized control as it swept across northern Iraq in 2014 the group imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law far more severe than anything residents had known before.

"If a boy and a girl were discovered together then they risked being executed," said Rahma, 21.

Now Mosul University where she studies English is busy with groups of boys with gelled up hair and girls wearing colorful headscarves.

Even before the arrival of Daesh it was "unimaginable" for girls to get a job outside the home working alongside men, unless it was in a staid public administration office, she said.

'Lost in a desert'

Ziad Dabbagh has just opened up a restaurant to give people somewhere else to go in the commercial neighborhood of Al-Zuhur.

"People in Mosul used to go to other provinces of Iraq to go out," the entrepreneur said.

Families dine and young men sip tea on the terraces and in the dining hall.

"It was as if we were lost in the middle of a desert, cut off from everything," said Roua Al-Malah, 34, who was out with her family.

"And now all at once we have rediscovered that we can have a good time."

Behind a green glass door men sip brightly colored fruit juice in the neighboring building as they play cards and billiards amid a cloud of smoke from hookah pipes.

Owner Mazen Aziz opened up in May even as fierce fighting was still raging across the river in Mosul's Old City, which is still a deserted ghost town today.

His billiard club with its smoking, card playing and loud music would have been a prime target for the jihadists who dominated the city for a decade.

"For years in Mosul, after six in the evening there was no one in the streets. Now I can head home at two or three in the morning without fear," he said.

"A new life is beginning." — AFP


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