On Thursday, Iraqi government-led troops seized the Great Mosque of al-Nuri from ISIS in Mosul. This comes three years after the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claimed the site as the group’s caliphate and appointed himself as the leader.
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, announced the mosque had been successfully seized by their troops and stated that this advancement was the end of the ISIS state. The victory comes after more than eight months of fighting to recapture Mosul, which has been used as a capital for ISIS in Iraq.
However, the proclaimed victory comes with much destruction, including hundreds of civilian casualties, and draws attention to the myriad of problems in Iraq, as well the power that ISIS holds across the globe as an ideology despite its lack of landhold.
Abdai stated that “the return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh [ISIS] state of falsehood.”
The military spokesperson, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, followed the theme of falsehood in his statement to state TV, saying “their fictitious state has fallen.” However, UNICEF has called attention to the thousands of children that remain stranded in the area. Their Iraqi representative, Peter Hawkins, stated that
“children are facing multiple threats to their lives, those stranded in the fighting are hiding in their basements, fearful of the next onslaught. Those who try to flee risk being shot or wounded. Hundreds of civilians have already been reported killed and used as human shields. Boys and girls who have managed to escape show signs of moderate malnutrition and carry emotional scars of the conflict.”
If the Prime Minister’s claims hold true and this is the end of ISIS in Iraq, then there is cause for celebration as the group has caused great amounts of conflict over the past three years in this city, Iraq’s nation, and across the world. For instance, the city of Mosul has been reduced to rubble, with soldiers claiming that the heat from the summer has caused the stench of dead bodies to take over the area to the point where it has become overwhelming.
Furthermore, the religiously significant 12th Century al-Nuri mosque has been completely destroyed by ISIS who blew it up last week when US-backed Iraqi forces started to regain the area. Thus, like most ‘victories,’ this one came about through the creation of its own conflict, which in its process has cost the lives of thousands of Mosul civilians, and displaced over 850,000 more people who have been driven out from their homes. In this respect, violence has once again been used as the tactic to overcome other violence, which is not a cause for celebration.
However, there is hope for the city to return to peace when it is officially out of ISIS’ control. In February, East Mosul was similarly seized from ISIS and has already been able to return to a new version of its previous life, with the lively activity from returned residents in everyday areas like marketplaces. There is hope that much of the Western area can also be reestablished to allow for displaced people to return to their homes, with the hope that there will be no more death and destruction in their area. However, because ISIS has left traps in areas they have previously retreated from, the whole site will need to be cleared by explosives experts before any rebuilding can begin. There is also still thought to be 300 ISIS fighters in small pockets of the city ready to fight to the death, and the group still holds an area on the west side of the Tigris River.
Additionally, it is clear from the attacks across the world that the power of ISIS does not rely on having a physical state with land and boundaries. Dr. Andreas Krieg of King’s College – London Department of Defence Studies believes it is important to recognize ISIS as a “global ideology” that will not end because it has lost its land hold. Instead, Dr. Krieg believes, that this will launch the group into a full-blown insurgency across Iraq and Iran, while further increasing their terror attacks around the world. Dr. Krieg importantly highlights the additional issue in this conflict, which is that Iraq’s problems are not caused purely by ISIS. Rather, he draws attention to the fact that
“all the local grievances that allowed Isis to flourish in the first place – physical insecurity, disenfranchisement – are not going to go away. There are many in northern Iraq who are not going to cheer and support the Baghdad government now that they’ve been liberated from one form of oppression. They are already bracing for the next one.”
Therefore, it is important to stay focused on issues of peace within Iraq, as even though they have had a victory this week, there are still many issues of conflict that need to be resolved.
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