A new life sprouts up around Mosul after scars of Daesh rule

Children play in a debris-strewn alleyway in Mosul. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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A new life sprouts up around Mosul after scars of Daesh rule

MOSUL: Even before Daesh took over her home city of Mosul, Iraqi 31-year-old Nesrine never imagined she would have a job working late into the evening at a fashion boutique.
But now, in districts of Iraq’s second city not left totally devastated by the ferocious fighting to oust the terrorists, life is buzzing again — with more vibrancy than ever.
“We have experienced depression, hunger, ruin and oppression. It is a miracle that we are still alive,” Nesrine told AFP.
“We went through a long nightmare and now we have woken up transformed.”
Nesrine is employed at a gleaming new clothing shop that has opened up on the east bank of the river Tigris — liberated from Daesh months before the group’s final defeat in western districts six months ago — selling skinny jeans and colorful tops from Turkey.
As pop music blares from loudspeakers, she works alongside male colleagues advising customers lured in during a late-evening stroll by images of fashion models.
In the shop window, a mannequin wearing an above-the-knee skirt is on display.
Mosul has long had a reputation as the bedrock of conservatism and became a hub for radical terrorists after the US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
But when Daesh seized control as it swept across northern Iraq in 2014 the group imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law far more severe than anything residents had known before.

“If a boy and a girl were discovered together then they risked being executed,” said Rahma, 21.
Now Mosul University where she studies English is busy with groups of boys with gelled up hair and girls wearing colorful headscarves.
Even before the arrival of Daesh it was “unimaginable” for girls to get a job outside the home working alongside men, unless it was in a staid public administration office, she said.
Ziad Dabbagh has just opened up a restaurant to give people somewhere else to go in the commercial neighborhood of Al-Zuhur.
“People in Mosul used to go to other provinces of Iraq to go out,” the entrepreneur said.
Families dine and young men sip tea on the terraces and in the dining hall.
“It was as if we were lost in the middle of a desert, cut off from everything,” said Roua Al-Malah, 34, who was out with her family.
“And now all at once we have rediscovered that we can have a good time.”
Behind a green glass door, men sip brightly colored fruit juice in the neighboring building as they play cards and billiards amid a cloud of smoke from hookah pipes.
Owner Mazen Aziz opened up in May even as fierce fighting was still raging across the river in Mosul’s Old City, which is still a deserted ghost town today.
His billiard club with its smoking, card playing and loud music would have been a prime target for the terrorists who dominated the city for a decade.
“For years in Mosul, after six in the evening, there was no one in the streets. Now I can head home at 2 or 3 in the morning without fear,” he said.
“A new life is beginning.”


First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2018
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First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

  • Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there
  • Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year

BEIRUT: Russia bombed rebel-held parts of southern Syria late Saturday for the first time since brokering a cease-fire there nearly a year ago, a monitor group said, as allied regime troops prepare a ground assault.
Southern Syria is a strategic prize for local and global players involved in the country’s convoluted seven-year war.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears keen to recapture the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.
He has sent military reinforcements there for weeks, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and escalated bombardment in recent days.
Late Saturday night, his Russian allies bombed rebel-held towns in Daraa for the first time since the summer of 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Observatory said the warplanes used Saturday — based on type, location, munitions and flight patterns — had come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim base in coastal Syria.
The Britain-based monitor said at least 25 Russian strikes hit the rebel zones but did not have any casualty figures.

Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday.
At least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.
Several civilians have also been killed in opposition fire on government zones, with state news agency SANA reporting Saturday that two civilians were killed in Daraa city in rebel shelling.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said, with many seeking refuge in poorly-equipped displacement camps further west.
The United Nations has warned that growing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south in danger.
On Saturday, regime forces took two villages in Daraa province, their first ground gains after days of bombardment, the Observatory said.

“The Russian strikes started around 10:30pm local time (1930 GMT) and stopped after midnight,” said Ibrahim Mohammad, a media activist in the battered rebel town of Busr Al-Harir in Daraa.
He said he and other residents had taken to their basements and bomb shelters as soon as they heard the planes, describing a steady thud of bombardment for nearly two hours.
In an effort to avoid a deadly offensive, international powers are holding talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement for Syria’s south.
“All sides should seize the opportunity to negotiate a deal for the conditional return of the Syrian state to the south west and avert a military conclusion that, for all sides and the local population, would be a worse outcome,” wrote the International Crisis Group think tank last week.
“The US, Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western cease-fire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement,” the report added.
Earlier this month, Assad said contacts were ongoing between Russia, the United States and Israel over the southern front.
“We are giving the political talks a chance, but if they fail, there will be no choice but liberation by force,” he said.
The regime has retaken large parts of Syria from the opposition since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015.