First Published: 2017-01-06

Mosul's displaced choose home over camps
For Mosul’s displaced citizens shelter is often down the road, with many preferring to remain close to home in temporary residences rather than in UN camps which are ‘like prison’.
Middle East Online

Residents carry their belongings in search for temporary homes

MOSUL - The first stop for the thousands of civilians forced to flee their homes in Mosul is often inside their own city, sometimes in the homes of complete strangers.

Mohammed fled the violence on the western side of the Iraqi city, which is traversed by the Tigris river, and found shelter in an abandoned house in Al-Intisar, a neighbourhood in the east.

"I know nothing about this house," said Mohammed, a 62-year-old man with black teeth. "The owners left for Baghdad, they were displaced too. The neighbourhood's residents told me I could stay so I did."

Mohammed explained that moving to one of the many displacement camps set up by the United Nations and other relief agencies around Mosul was not an option. "It's like prison, they don't let you out," he said.

The tour of his new, temporary home is quickly done: three rooms, a rug hanging from one of the walls and a full tea service.

"There's a generator but no water," said Mohammed, who moved in with one of his two wives, a son and his pregnant daughter-in-law.

The neighbourhood of Al-Intisar they now live in was retaken by Iraqi forces recently but is close to the front line, where the Islamic State group is resisting with suicide bombings and mortar and sniper fire.

The area is still a war zone -- the crackling of gunfire, the thrum of helicopters overhead and the rumble of tanks moving down the streets can be heard throughout much of the day.

Nearly three months into the offensive launched by Baghdad and its allies to retake the city, IS has lost around two thirds of the eastern side but fully controls the west bank.

Hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents still live in the war-torn city, in which the US-led coalition says there are 200,000 buildings, complicating the government's advance.

- Solidarity -

After living under the tyrannical rule of the "caliphate" proclaimed by IS following its capture of Mosul in June 2014, residents are now directly exposed to the battle aimed at ousting the jihadists from their city.

According to the UN, more than 125,000 people have fled their homes since the start of the offensive on October 17.

Only 14,000 of them have been able to return to their homes in areas recaptured from IS, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Those fleeing from inside the city often attempt to remain as close as possible to their homes, picking their way through battle lines as they push their belongings on carts and look for a temporary home.

Abu Ahmed, his wife and their three children are among those Mosul residents displaced within their own city, whose exact number the chaos of urban warfare makes impossible to determine.

They benefited from the hospitality of friends who welcomed them in Al-Intisar but Abu Ahmed said he was worried about his son, who is three and a half years old.

"There are bombings, air strikes. Now he already knows the language of war. A child like him should not have to know this," he said.

Commanders have warned that the battle for Mosul could last many more months and the future of Iraq's second city looks bleak but stories of solidarity between its residents offer some hope.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi this week praised what he called "the Iraqi spirit" displayed in Mosul by families opening their doors to displaced civilians, sometimes dozens of them at a time.

In Al-Intisar, a mother of seven girls welcomed five families in her home for several days.

"Praise to God, I opened my house and welcomed them. I didn't know them," said the lady, who gave her name as Umm Dunia.

She recalled how her family and the 20-odd extra guests she hosted hunkered down in the house while Iraqi forces battled jihadist fighters in the street.

"We would keep the water we'd used to wash ourselves in a basin. That way it wouldn't run into the street and give away the presence of people inside the house," she said.

 

World leaders condemn Britain terror attack

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings

Erdogan warns Europeans risk being ‘unsafe’ on world’s streets

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Qaeda, IS developing harder-to-detect bombs say experts

Terrorist attack at London’s Houses of Parliament

2016 saw sharp rise in illegal Israeli settlement projects

US-led coalition vows lasting victory against IS

Bahrain arrests photographer on unspecified charges

Humanitarian groups demand access to Yemen civilians suffering 'open-air massacre'

33 killed in US-led air strike on north Syria

Rights group says Libyan military committed war crimes

Israel seals East Jerusalem home of Palestinian attacker's family

Migrants in Europe at risk of drug-resistant tuberculosis

Iraqis urged to avoid hurried mass grave exhumations

Turkey steps up objection to US flight laptop ban

Britain joins US in banning laptops on flights from Turkey, Arab world

Anti-IS coalition gathers in Washington to hear Trump plan

Turkey links Gulen to murder of Armenian journalist

Kuwait bans hit movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Five dead in Mogadishu bombing

Khamenei fleshes out 'Made in Iran' vision

Turkey to ask US to reverse flight laptop ban

Israeli army says Hezbollah commander killed by own men

Kurds celebrate Newroz in Turkey's southeast despite shooting

Turkey’s AKP says no more campaign rallies in Germany

Chinese president calls for peace in meeting with Netanyahu

Iraq forces gain ground in Mosul

US bans electronic devices from cabins on Middle East flights

Erdogan says yes vote best response to 'fascist Europe'

Arab Israeli woman gets 50 months prison for joining IS

All Syria sides confirm attendance at Geneva talks