ISIS Defeated - Rebuilding Iraq’s Towns & Cities
The Iraqi government has declared victory over Islamic State in Mosul. After nine months of fighting, only small pockets of extremists remain in parts of Mosul. But this doesn’t mark the end of Islamic State, who are still active in Iraq and Syria. And though Mosul has been liberated, now the huge task of rebuilding begins.
Karamles, 30km from Mosul
In the Christian town of Karamles, 30km east of Mosul, residents are only now starting to rebuild.
Karamles was under Islamic State control for over two years until it was liberated in October 2016. Most of the 797 homes in Karamles have been completely burnt-out, and 97 have been reduced to rubble.
A Return Centre has been set up next to the church to accommodate people returning to repair their homes. So far, 250 families have said they would like to return and rebuild before the end of the year.
“We want to return home. This is our land”
12-year-old Noeh and his family were one of the first to return.
The family returned to find their home as a hollow shell, almost completely burnt-out. Noeh walked through his home with Open Doors’ contacts, finding belongings in the ashes–his marbles, the family computer, his dad’s church book.
But Noeh tells us, “We want to return home. This is our land.”
Iraqi boy returns home 'post ISIS'
“Islamic State has been here and they might have hidden bombs.”
The government has said the local school will reopen later this year. But it isn’t safe yet, and there’s still a lot to be done.
The local school has weeds growing between the concrete and the floor is littered with rubbish. We were with Noah as he returned to his old school for the first time. He walked around the playground and soccer field, and took us to his old classroom.
He said, “I can’t go in any further, Islamic State has been here and they might have hidden bombs.”
Image: Noeh has a look inside his old classroom. He says he has to tread carefully because Islamic State might have left bombs.
“The situation for Christians in Iraq has always been unstable”
After many of the town’s Christian population returned to Karamles for Easter celebrations, Father Thabet is helping families choosing to return for good.
Father Thabet is leader of the local church. He fled to Erbil when Islamic State invaded in 2014, along with many Christians from Karamles and surrounding towns.
Once homes have been rebuilt, the danger won’t be over for Christians–who faced persecution even before Islamic State. But that won’t stop Christians like Father Thabet from returning.
Image: Father Thabet looks at the remains of the home he grew up in in Karamles. The house was occupied by Islamic State and hit by a rocket. Father Thabet fears there is still a dead body somewhere in the rubble.
He admitted that he is afraid, saying, “…the situation for Christians in Iraq has always been unstable. All I can do is trust in God.”
“It is our mission to live here in this place as Christians, the place of the root of Christianity,” he said.
“Without faith I do not have a reason to stay here.
But I have faith, so I am here.”