ISIS days over in Mosul but suffering of victims continues

July 16, 2017
A glimmer of hope. Iraqi Federal Police celebrate in the Old City of Mosul. (Reuters)

London-The recapture of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS) has provided Iraq with new opportunities for national reconciliation but the country faces other serious challenges that could make matters worse.
The announcement of “total victory” in Mosul by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has re­stored some confidence in the state following the humiliation that plagued the government when ISIS captured the city in 2014 but the war against the militants is by no means over.
ISIS controls the towns of Tal Afar in Nineveh province; Hawijah in Kirkuk; as well as Rawa, Anah and al-Qaim in Anbar. ISIS continues to attack government-held areas, including in the Old City of Mosul. The reported death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is unlikely to affect the militants’ operations.
In addition to recapturing these areas, the Iraqi government needs to swiftly bring a sense of normalcy to the people who lived under ISIS control. This does not only mean providing urgent humanitarian at­tention but also ensuring the pro­cess of reconstruction and of secur­ing a dignified means of living for them is a priority.
Victims of ISIS in those areas will undoubtedly feel relieved after be­ing freed from the ordeal of living under the militants’ rule but, in or­der for them to trust the state, they are likely to want zero tolerance of human rights violations, including displacement, unlawful detention, torture, rape and summary execu­tions carried out by Iraqi forces, predominately Shia militias or Kurdish peshmerga.
Although residents in the Kurd­ish-majority north and the Shia-majority south have faced human rights violations at the hands of security forces, they see the abuses as part of corruption of the authori­ties, as opposed to being driven by sectarianism, because such acts are carried out by members of their own faith or ethnicity. Residents of the Sunni-Arab community are more likely to view such abuses as sectarian.
The national focus on the mili­tary campaign to dislodge ISIS from Mosul has led the central govern­ment in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil to set aside most of their differences, al­beit momentarily. Relations peaked when Iraqi government forces were allowed to enter KRG territory for the first time since 1990.
The announcement by KRG Pres­ident Masoud Barzani in April that he intends to call a referendum on the future of Kurdistan and other disputed areas drew condemna­tion from the Iraqi government but Baghdad did not escalate the row with Erbil. How the two sides de­cide to handle the dispute as they approach the September 25 vote could determine what Iraq’s next major crisis is going to be.