MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – For residents of the Old City, returning to Mosul is an exercise in trying to forget.
Its streets bear the scars of the horrors they survived – either living under ISIS draconian rule or during nine months of brutal fighting, as the U.S.-led coalition battled to recapture the city from the jihadists.
“This corner is where Daesh whipped my sons for talking out of turn,” said Um Abdullah, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS, walking around the neighbourhood she returned to in January. “And this corner is where they killed my father for trying to stop them.”
The spot was metres away from her home in the Bab al-Jadeed district. Though the front door had been blown off its hinges, the house remained standing unlike most others on the street. Where there were once 40 families living, there are now only three.
Um Abdullah says she returned reluctantly to the area, which has no electricity and no running water, because conditions were nevertheless better than the refugee camp where she had lived before.
A few streets away, Um Russil said she had also recently returned to the area, where her husband had been wounded in an air strike.
“Some of our neighbours don’t want to return – they say they are scarred by what they went through and can’t come back,” she said. “But we had to come back … we had no choice.”
Prior to the move back, Um Russil had been living in the eastern part of Mosul, ISIS main base in Iraq which suffered heavy damage from bombing and fighting.