What has al-Baghdadi’s death changed?

Nov 8, 2019 | Eaglewatch in Iraq

Not a long time ago I wrote about a recording published in April 2019, in which the leader of the so-called Islamic State called Islamic fundamentalists to carry out terrorist attacks (Polish only).

I mentioned as well that the Americans had already announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death several times. This time apparently it has really happened. What does that mean for the global fight with terrorism? Unfortunately not much. ISIS structures are not based on power consolidated in the hands of one person, and local leaders have much flexibility in taking decisions independently. The leader’s public appearances were very rare. One of the very few such appearances that will be remembered was when in 2014 he announced the establishment of the Islamic State in the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul . The 800-year-old mosque was later blown up by ISIS before they lost Mosul.

The mosque where al – Baghdadi announced the creation of IS.

Hence, we cannot talk about total success because the situation in Iraq and Syria is still very tense. The problems are intensified by the split existing among many military and paramilitary units which control different parts of Iraq (similar situation exists in Syria). After the battle of Mosul many of them have gained their own spheres of influence which they are not willing to leave. Humanitarian organizations in the region deliver help ad hoc. The central government in Baghdad has yet to create a plan that would bring back a normal life to the territories liberated from ISIS. Towns such as Sinjar are still to be reconstructed. Stabilization has, so far, been only a dream.

We are rebuilding workplaces destroyed by terrorists.

The ‘Great Job’ project aims at the reconstruction of destroyed workplaces for the families that decided to take that difficult step and return home.

Nineveh in terrorists’ hands.

On the occasion of the forthcoming third anniversary of the launch of the Battle of Mosul I would like to remind you why we are so consequently trying to help ISIS’s victims. Because a picture usually captures one’s imagination more than words, I will show you several photos that we took in the cities that were occupied by terrorists.

For over two years Batnaya served as a training center for terrorists. The town was a front line between the Kurdish Peshmerga military and Christian self-defense units on one hand, and ISIS militias on the other. Widespread destruction is a result of the anti-terrorist coalition’s air campaign and fierce battles for the town’s recapture.
In 2014, Batnaya was inhabited by more than six thousand people. In March 2017, when we took those pictures (in Mosul the fighting was still ongoing), three persons returned to the city. It was an elderly couple with a daughter who looked after the local church. Throughout the entire occupation it served the terrorists as a training hall. The altar, pictures and statues were all smashed in the courtyard. The antique library was turned into a toilet.
So far few hundred people returned to the city. Despite monumental destruction, they decided to try to continue their lives here, although they do not feel totally safe.

When we visited Batnaya in March 2017, unburied corpses of ISIS militants were still lying under the rubble. In the destroyed cemetery the remains of people buried there were visible in open graves. Yellow frames were placed on the streets to warn against unexploded mortars fixed in the asphalt. There were many wrecks of car bombs that ISIS was using for suicide attacks.

In May 2018 we visited Teleskoff. By that time around 70% of residents had returned to the city. The streets were cleaned up, shops were open, and people were visible on every corner. Just half a year earlier there was not even one civilian left there. The city served as the Peshmerga’s headquarters and later on the Iraqi army preparing for the offensive stationed there as well. Although at first glance it seemed that the city was rebuilt, walking down the streets one could come across many destroyed buildings. Those could only be demolished.
During our visit to Iraq at the end of 2018, we went to Mosul. The streets were full of cars. A large part of the city was bustling. The army keeping order was present on every crossroad. In this case, we are not talking about the locals returning to a liberated city. According to various estimates, throughout the entire occupation there were half to one and a half million people living there. A cruel truth hidden by the media is that a large part of the population supported the Islamic State. You can find a lot of information on this topic on the Internet.
Similarly to other towns, Mosul was also razed to the ground. The extent of the destruction was unbelievable. It is enough to look at the ruins to realize how large the destruction accompanying war activities was.
Currently, the situation is much better, at least in Mosul. The whole world focused its attention on the city’s reconstruction, forgetting about other places in the region where the scale of the destruction has been similar. Above mentioned Sinjar and surrounding towns and villages are covered with the sea of rubble. The Yazidis living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) would like to return there, but currently that is impossible. There is nothing to come back to. Before you ask about the difference between living in a tent in a camp and moving this same tent to their hometowns, I will try to explain. In a camp there is a school. It is poor, overcrowded and not providing many opportunities… But it is there. It takes an hour-long ride to reach a doctor. Yes, both transport and visit need to be paid for, but a hospital or a health center are located nearby. It is also easier to find a job in the area. In the destroyed Sinjar there is absolutely nothing. Schools, hospitals, workshops and the entire infrastructure still lies under rubble.

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