3 Years after ISIS, Mosul Homes Remain Pile of Rubble
Ahmed Hamed has dreamt of rebuilding his pulverized home in Iraq's Mosul from the moment government forces recaptured the city from militants in 2017. But three years on, it remains a pile of rubble.
He is among tens of thousands of Iraqis who have filed claims to the Nineveh province's Subcommittee for Compensation, seeking reparations for material goods, injuries and even lives lost in the months-long fight to retake Mosul from ISIS.
"I still haven't gotten a cent, even though it's been so long since the liberation," said Hamed, 25, who works menial day jobs to afford a small apartment.
His original home lies in Mosul's ravaged western half, where ISIS made its final stand in the city and reconstruction has been the slowest.
Iraq gathered $30 billion in pledges from international donors in Kuwait in 2018 to rebuild, but virtually none of the funds have been disbursed.
Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil prices, Iraq's government is struggling to rake in enough monthly revenues to break even –- pushing rebuilding even lower on its priorities list.
"Politicians keep telling us we need to go home," Hamed said, slamming the government's insistence on closing down the camps where more than one million Iraqis, rendered homeless by the fighting, are still seeking shelter.
"But how? Our homes are destroyed and there isn't a single public service that works."
According to a Norwegian Refugee Council survey in Mosul, over 270,000 people remain unable to return home and of those living there, 64 percent said they would be unable to pay rent in the next three months.
Every day, dozens of people queue outside a reception window at the Subcommittee for Compensation, clutching thick packets of multi-colored forms they pray will be approved by the central committee in Baghdad.
Among them under the midsummer sun was Ali Elias, hoping for news of his son, a soldier kidnapped by ISIS in 2017.
"I filed a claim on him shortly after the liberation, at least so we know what happened to him. It was sent to Baghdad, but no one answered," the 65-year-old told AFP.
"I'm getting old and I'm exhausted by spending my life in these different government offices," he said.
According to subcommittee head Mohammed Mahmoud, the body has received "90,000 claims, of which about 48,000 to 49,000 were for goods, houses, shops and other properties, and 39,000 for human loss -- dead, wounded or missing".
"We processed three-fourths of the claims on material damage, but there aren't enough funds to actually pay them out. We were only able to compensate 2,500 families," he said.
Most of the rebuilding efforts in the northern city have either been undertaken by individuals or by the United Nations and other international organizations.
The UN has reconstructed 2,000 homes, dozens of schools, healthcare centers, and water or power plants in Mosul since 2018, but even it has faced challenges.
According to a recent report by the American University of Iraq in Sulaimaniyah, the UN Development Program (UNDP) complained the "government is stalling or blocking projects rather than facilitating them.”
Seeking to root out corruption, the UN introduced long vetting processes, which further delayed rebuilding.