Earlier this week, the BBC published a report about the future of Fallujah, a city in Iraq left in ruins after being held by ISIS. After Fallujah was freed from ISIS’s control, evidence was found of the harsh treatment in the city – now a feature of ISIS presence. The BBC article focuses on those in Shuhada, a suburb in Fallujah.
Ahmed Hussein was interviewed by the BBC after fleeing Fallujah and returning to find his house in ruins. Now he is working on rebuilding his life, but has vented frustration at the difficulty of living in Fallujah: “it’s very hard, especially when I have no money … If the government paid compensation, that would help. But there’s destruction everywhere and the government says it doesn’t have any money. Because of the war.” Helping people like Ahmed is important, not only because of the violation of basic rights but because without proper support, Iraq and Syria will again become breeding grounds for the same violence that the world worked diligently to overcome.
While many world forces have come together to defeat ISIS, it is difficult to imagine that the same vigour will be applied to the rejuvenation of Iraq and Syria. Syria has been left cash short – resources have been spent on the fight against ISIS, which cripples the project of rebuilding houses for its people. Iraq is in a similar boat. In Fallujah, civilian life seems to be heading in the right direction: people are in the streets, and a fairground is even active. Compared to a year ago, the situation has certainly improved. However, this may only be a short-term improvement for the region. Defeating ISIS does not mean its root causes have been addressed, and as long as they persist, there is a risk of a similar situation occurring.
There has been a focus on the symptoms (like the Islamic State) rather than the cause. On April 21 2017, the Huffington Post published an article titled “The Battle Over Syria’s Future” which went on to detail the different interests of each major player in the region. This is the problem. People cannot be treated as a means to an end – it has been tried time and time again. Britain and France tried it when they first went to the Middle East. America and the Soviet Union tried it during the Cold War. The U.S.’s invasion of Iraq. Now it will be tried again. Treating a shattered, tired, war-torn people as a means to an end will not solve problems in the Middle East. Solving violence requires fostering a spirit of cooperation, which starts at the top. It is the responsibility of those who fought ISIS to help prevent a similar force from rising in the future.