Months After ISIS, Much Of Iraq's Mosul Is Still Rubble : Parallels U.S.-backed Iraqi forces drove the militants out of the city eight months ago, but residents say hardly any efforts are in place to rebuild homes after airstrikes and explosions toppled them.
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Months After ISIS, Much Of Iraq's Mosul Is Still Rubble

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Months After ISIS, Much Of Iraq's Mosul Is Still Rubble

Months After ISIS, Much Of Iraq's Mosul Is Still Rubble

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's been eight months since the battle to force ISIS from the Iraqi city of Mosul. Many areas remain in rubble from U.S. airstrikes and fighting by both sides. Iraq did gather almost $30 billion in pledges for international aid to help rebuild. Most is for huge projects that will take years. NPR's Jane Arraf went back to Mosul, and found reconstruction badly lacking and residents desperate for help.


JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Samira Sheet and a few of her neighbors have been sitting on a battered wooden bench on a street full of rubble since early in the day.


SAMIRA SHEET: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: ...And the day before that and the day before that. They were told by an aid organization that if they registered and brought their documents, someone would come back and give them money. But no one's come, and they don't know the name of the organization.


SHEET: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "My house collapsed, and my son is injured. We don't get help from anyone," Sheet tells me. Thousands of homes collapsed here in the old section in airstrikes and mortar attacks while Iraq and the U.S. were fighting ISIS in Iraq's second-biggest city last year. That was eight months ago. And it looks pretty much the same here as it did when the city was liberated last July.


SHEET: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Streets full of grieving families trying to live in the ruins of houses.

AMER MOHAMMAD: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Amer Mohammad, known by Abu Ahmed, is a resident who worked for the health ministry. He knows every home in this neighborhood. Holding his 4-year-old son Yasser by the hand, he takes us on a very grim tour.


ARRAF: So we're in the Christian quarter and going into an old house. Oh. Abu Ahmed is showing us - it still really smells awful. He's showing us a pile of charred bones - not completely burned. It looks like one or two people here.

ZIAD ABDUL QADER: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: The homeowner, Ziad Abdul Qader (ph), says the bodies were ISIS fighters. Christians and Muslims like him both suffered under ISIS. He says people worried about disease burned the bodies. He's come back to clean up the house. He plans to shovel the bones into a bag and throw it in the trash.

ABDUL QADER: (Through interpreter) People come and spit on the bones. We suffered a lot under ISIS. They took everything from us - our money, our gold, everything. And then they whipped us - the men and the women. They almost beat us to death.

ARRAF: ISIS took away is 24-year-old son last May after finding a banned mobile phone. They haven't heard from him since. Abdul Qader has brought his 11-year-old son Mohammad with him. Mohammad looks silently at the bones.

ABDUL QADER: (Through interpreter) He has panic attacks and nightmares from the airstrikes and the shelling. He's in fourth grade, but he's even forgotten the alphabet. We go over it every day, but he doesn't remember.

ARRAF: Abdul Qader was middle-class. He had a clothing shop in the market, but it's destroyed now. And all the money he'd saved, they spent on food while ISIS controlled the city. He had to borrow the $2 for a taxi from his relative's house across the river.


ARRAF: We continue through the narrow streets.

So this looks like an earthquake hit. The rubble here is piled up maybe 20 feet. It's covering the entrances to these houses where the roofs have collapsed. There are old tires. And this is where they say there was a house they called the English house.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: They say it was the British Consulate in the 1950s, very elegant. Like almost everything else, though, it is now a huge pile of smashed stone and broken concrete. Throughout this district of the city, there's no electricity, no running water. Corruption and mismanagement means the Iraqi government struggles to provide those things even in Baghdad.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: For the central government, places like Mosul are barely on the radar. We passed by people burning wood to keep warm. There's no money for heating fuel. Our guide, Abu Ahmed, points out a home where he buried an elderly man in the garden. He says the man died of illness after being weakened by hunger and dehydration.

MOHAMMAD: (Through interpreter) This was one of our Christian brothers. We protected them. We brought them food and water, but they didn't leave - poor people.

ARRAF: At another house, Mohammad Assim and his brothers have been working for weeks to remove the broken concrete from their home. Their 35-year-old sister died here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: He's pointing out where the mortar came from - right through the roof, it looks like. And then the wood is all splintered where it went through the door. And inside is the room where his sister was killed.

MOHAMMAD: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Abu Ahmed, who's 53, had a 15-year-old son killed in a mortar strike. We meet dozens of people in the neighborhood. And there literally isn't a single family who hasn't lost someone.

AHLAM ZAIDAN: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: Ahlam Zaidan is standing in the doorway of a damaged house, and she's crying. On three successive days in March, airstrikes and mortars killed her husband, two of her sons and her nephew.

ZAIDAN: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "They died one after the other," she says. She has one child left, Mohannad, who's 15.


ARRAF: As we speak, there is the sound of an explosion, an ISIS bomb being detonated by the military. They're still finding them on these streets. The danger from unexploded bombs has chased away young volunteers who were clearing away rubble from people's homes. And it's a big reason that aid agencies that could provide water and fuel and help rebuild aren't coming here. U.N. says it will take years to clear all the explosives. No one here can recall seeing a government official visit.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "ISIS were killers, and the government are thieves," one woman says. Others say the Shiite-led government is neglecting them deliberately because they're Sunni, and it thinks they supported ISIS. Abu Ahmed says if they just had a little bit of help, people would do the rest themselves.

MOHAMMAD: (Speaking Arabic).

ARRAF: "We need services, the government to clear the rubble and give us electricity and clean water," he says. "Then we will rebuild with our own hands." Jane Arraf, NPR News, Mosul.

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