Mosul and the Nineveh Plains are a “mini-Iraq,” encompassing the diversity of the country and the challenges of uniting the many religious and ethnic groups living side-by-side, was the take away from a conference in Erbil on Thursday, bringing together Kurdish and Iraqi officials to discuss the liberation of Mosul and what to do in its aftermath.
A “mini-Iraq” is how Hassan Shibeb al-Sabawi, member of the Iraqi defense ministry and a consultant on religious affairs, referred to the Nineveh Plains due to the diversity it encompasses. Also like Iraq, it is fragmented with different religious and ethnic groups in conflict with each other. “We are going to have to try to harmonize the region,” he said.
It is an endeavor made all the more challenging as the fragmentation of Nineveh’s and Iraq’s society has poured into the forces preparing to take Mosul. “A major priority is keeping the military together and preventing in-house fighting based on sect or religion,” Sabawi told Rudaw. But, he stressed, all sects and religions have a common enemy.
“ISIS has done nothing but harm all religions in the region,” he explained. “No matter what background, Sunni, Shiite… it does not matter.” “After the liberation,” Sabawi explained, “they plan on discussing with the mullahs how to give sermons during the prayers that will not provoke hate but inspire tolerance.”
The emergence of local defense forces, taking control over their own homes has been one element that will contribute to building future security, argued Mohammad al-Bayati, president of a consultant group on military affairs. “We know that since the beginning when ISIS came into the Nineveh Plains, most of the military forces retreated and left the service. They quit their jobs technically,” Bayati explained to Rudaw.
“Most of the police forces were held where ISIS was in control and were basically considered hostages with no actual power other than just being there. This is the main difficulty.” In the meantime, Bayati said, local groups “started forming a new consultant parliament or a mini-parliament on what to do in discussing the military and police forces.
Since then, they have liberated many small towns surrounding the Nineveh Plain which made it easier for them to form a new consultant group that will discuss and solve the military and police matters within the near future.”
That future will not be a return to what life was like before ISIS, he believes, pointing to liberated towns such as Qayyara where residents have been gradually readapting. “Since they have liberated Qayyara, they have found that the actual indigenous people have been accepting the new life after the liberation because they hated the oppression from ISIS,” Bayati said.
“I hope that many people of the different towns that they will liberate soon, will have same idea and same perspective and they will return to their lives as before.” Plans are being put into place for people to return to their homes in Mosul and Nineveh, according to Dr. Achmed Abu Bardini, vice-deputy of health operating in Nineveh.
“Hopefully the liberation will happen as soon as possible because the military and government are creating a plan for the people to return to their homes as safely as possible,” Bardini said, noting that plans are being made for health care in a liberated Mosul. Mosul is located in the Nineveh Plains and is Iraq’s second largest city. It has been under ISIS control since 2014.
By Glenn Field